Don't assume you're safe in a crosswalk

Charlie Ward
Charlie Ward
Dianne Ward
Dianne Ward
Lance Rae
Lance Rae

By Teri Okita – bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – In the past eight weeks, Honolulu has had at least 7 pedestrian-related accidents or fatalities - almost one per week.

Hawaii is the only state in the nation to have a pedestrian safety month, and August is it. So, what's being done to keep our crosswalks safer?

Dianne Ward remembers all too well the day her big brother, Charlie, got hit in a crosswalk. Four years later, he's still in a coma.

Ward explains tearfully, "It's gotta be like a death because I can't pick up the phone and call my brother. I can't answer the phone that he would call me everyday and say, he used to say, 'Has anyone called you and told you that they loved you today?'"

In the past decade, the pedestrian problem seemed to be on the decline. But last year, the number of fatalities soared, and this year, more than a dozen people have been killed, so far, crossing our roads.

"We rank fifth in the nation for pedestrian fatalities nationwide," says Lance Rae from Walk Wise Hawaii, a group that promotes pedestrian safety. "For senior citizens, 65 and over, Hawaii ranks number one in the nation." It's not just seniors, though. In 2010, the majority of pedestrian fatalities actually involved people aged 28 to 61.

To combat the problem, the city of Honolulu launched a pilot program on King street in Kalihi - installing blinking, in-pavement lights along the crosswalk, as well as flashing signals and audible alerts on the posts. "Cross street with caution. Vehicles may not stop," it says. If it's effective, officials hope to incorporate more down the road.

There's another idea to get drivers' attention. Along the Pali highway, pedestrians can grab one of an assortment of brightly colored flags and wave it as they walk across the road. It's simple and rudimentary, but anything helps.

And just today, the state released a pedestrian master plan - identifying 31 "areas of concern" across the islands. The plan incorporates engineering and infrastructure changes to roads and sidewalks, stricter enforcement of safety laws, and more driver and pedestrian education.

Rae's group, Walk Wise Hawaii, helped with the plan. He says, "Don't take it for granted that you're safe in a crosswalk. Because the majority of pedestrian fatalities last year and the year before, were people in a crosswalk and the driver that hit them was driving less than 25 miles an hour."

Interestingly, a six year study by the Hawaii Department of Health shows that driver error accounts for 47% of pedestrian fatalities, while 53% of pedestrians were crossing the street improperly.

Bottom line: give pedestrians a brake … whether they're being attentive or not.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.