Posted on: Monday, May 19, 2008
Hard to say where fault lies
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Blame the drivers.
Blame the pedestrians.
Two studies of pedestrian accidents in Hawai'i produced striking contrasts.
One study of all pedestrian accidents ˆ… fatal and non-fatal ˆ… from 2002 to 2005 found that drivers were nearly 14 times more likely to be at fault than the people they hit.
The analysis, by University of Hawai'i urban planning professor Karl Kim, suggests that more enforcement and education efforts should be aimed at drivers ˆ… especially male drivers, who are more apt to be at fault.
Inattention and misjudgments were the main behavioral factors that contributed to the accidents, Kim concluded.
In the second study, a state Department of Health expert who analyzed pedestrian fatalities in Hawai'i from 2001 to 2006 found that pedestrians played a major role in many of those crashes.
Dan Galanis, an epidemiologist with the department's Injury Prevention and Control Program, determined that more than half the 137 pedestrians who died on public roadways were in error ˆ… usually jaywalking.
Including the 28 percent who tested positive for alcohol or drugs, nearly two-thirds of the victims, or 89, engaged in behavior that contributed to the fatal crashes, Galanis concluded.
About half the drivers, or 67, were inattentive, speeding or doing something else inappropriate that contributed to the accidents, according to Galanis' analysis.
Both studies found that the majority of accidents occurred outside of crosswalks at non-intersections. Such conclusions run counter to the strategies embraced by the state and city of making safety improvements at crosswalks and intersections.
The Legislature just passed a bill appropriating $1 million for crosswalk improvements, and the state previously had announced plans to spend $2 million to install 600 countdown timers at intersections around O'ahu. Other state initiatives to improve crosswalks, such as repainting and redesigning them to make them more visible, tie in with road repaving projects.
Galanis said solutions that address even part of the pedestrian problem are welcome, given how serious the problem is and that seniors are more likely than other segments of the population to be hit in crosswalks.
Brennon Morioka, director of the state Department of Transportation, said making roads safer regardless of the improvement benefits all users.
Kim's analysis was based on a crash database that The Advertiser obtained last year from the Department of Transportation, which until then had resisted releasing such information. Experts had criticized the state's stinginess with accident data, saying it prevented DOT from fully meeting its responsibility of providing a safe environment.
Despite all the concern about pedestrian safety in recent years, Kim found that the number of pedestrian accidents statewide increased less than 1 percent from 2002 to 2005. On O'ahu, the increase was higher: 5.8 percent.
Reach Rob Perez at firstname.lastname@example.org