KALIHI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Police officers are used to getting “stink-eye” and a crew in Kalihi got plenty on Tuesday during a traffic operation that some drivers are calling “a trap.” It all has to do with a crosswalk law that has been on the books for ten years.
The message from Honolulu police is clear: if a pedestrian takes even one step into a crosswalk, all drivers on that side of the road must come to a complete stop. It was a tough lesson for some drivers who felt tricked by police.
All afternoon a man with a walkie-talkie would step off the sidewalk and into the crosswalk in front of the Chevron gas station. Once a car would pass in front of him, he would call on his radio to another group of police officers who were down the road. One by one they would flag down those drivers. Some have no idea why they are being pulled over and soon a line of cars formed down the road.
Michael Valdez is one of the drivers stuck with a $150 citation.
"Said I didn't stop for any pedestrians but there were no pedestrians. And as you can see, they're intentionally looking for this. So I don't understand why they would be doing that to everyone," said Valdez.
"They should be spending their time looking for criminals. I see about eight cop cars over here. This is Kalihi. There's a lot more things going on than just this. This is like petty crimes. This is nothing," Valdez said.
But then you have disabled Kalihi resident Cathy Tagaro who has trouble crossing such a busy street. She was so grateful for the crackdown; she bought drinks for the police officers.
"I think it's nice. Maybe some people might get mad. But for me being disabled, I think it helps. Because it's pretty scary crossing and the cars are coming to you," said Tagaro.
We tried to find out what prompted this crosswalk sting, but HPD's spokeswoman didn't return our calls. However, according to the Traffic Division, there have been five fatal pedestrian accidents so far this year.
Drivers who are ticketed for not stopping for pedestrians can challenge the citation in court. But Tagaro says it's a lot easier to just slow down on the roads.
"People might get angry because they are in a hurry going home today or whatever. But think of your loved ones who's crossing the street who are disabled, who are old, or a lot of our keikis," she said.
So what happens if a pedestrian enters the crosswalk and you're on the other half of the road? The law states the driver must stop if the pedestrian is “approaching the vehicle so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.” That is open to interpretation, which is why most drivers we talked with say they will take it up with the judge.
It's unclear how long this sting will be going on or where else HPD will be doing it.