Editor’s note: This Community Voice was one of numerous entries in our recently concluded Emerging Writers Contest.

One of the most devastating types of news that anyone can receive is that their loved one was involved in a traffic-related accident such as a pedestrian hit-and-run. Oh, if I was on the receiving end, my soul would be severely crushed.

Living near town for many years has opened my eyes to a much wider perspective pertaining to peoples’ driving habits and their awareness on safety. Many motorists are very careless and it’s scary. Of all the various types of traffic infractions, the one that hits home is not yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks — at signalized intersections and at unprotected ones between intersections.

This infraction is my pet peeve. Why, you might ask? It’s because I not only witnessed many close calls of other people, but I had many close calls myself.

If it wasn’t for the grace of God, the other people and I wouldn’t be here today. Well, I’ve had it. Enough is enough.

Honolulu city crosswalk walk downtown. 28 jan 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

A city crosswalk walk downtown. Remember to look both ways!

cory Lum/Civil Beat

Here’s an example of what it’s like at a signalized intersection. I’m standing at the intersection of Nuuanu Avenue and School Street heading southbound. The light turns green, then the walk symbol appears. You would think that I have the right of way, right? Legally I do, but not according to many motorists. There were many times even after making eye contact, they still didn’t let me cross.

Hawaii Revised Statutes 291C-33 protects pedestrians at intersections. Once the word “walk” or the symbol of a walking person appears, all motorists shall yield to pedestrians so they can proceed to cross.

Regarding unprotected crosswalks between intersections, it’s unbelievable how many motorists won’t stop. There were many times that I and many other people had to step into crosswalks so the motorists would stop. It was as though they refused to notice us as we waited to cross. And I bet you that some, if not all of them had only one thing in mind: to reach their destinations.

Well, here’s a news flash for them: We would like to reach our destinations, too.

What The Law Says

The following statutes will verify my experience. I’ve decided to leave both in its entirety to show its in-depth definition — HRS 291C-72 Pedestrians’ right-of-way in crosswalks:

[291C-74] Drivers to exercise due care. Notwithstanding other provisions of this chapter, every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the driver’s horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused or incapacitated person upon a roadway. [L 1971, c 150, pt of §1; gen ch 1985]

Section 291C-72(a), Hawaii Revised Statutes, has been amended by the 2005 Legislature and now states that “the driver of a vehicle shall stop and yield the right of way to pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.”

Regarding pedestrian safety improvements, Pali Highway is my location of interest because it’s considered to be one of the more critical danger stretches on Oahu. Witnesses of pedestrian fatalities reported that many motorists speed. I can vouch for this because my family and I reside on Pali Highway near the Punchbowl on-ramp. They don’t care about the pedestrians. Their main concern is to get from point A to point B.

Residents and organizations such as AARP Hawaii have been pushing for improvements for years, such as a light system or an overpass.

Back in 2010, state transportation officials were considering removing bus stops and crosswalks in the upper part of the highway where over a dozen accidents occurred over a 10-year period.

Here’s a news flash: Pedestrians would like to reach their destinations, too.

The problem with this is these much-needed and extensively used crosswalks are between signalized intersections. If removed, can you imagine how difficult it would’ve been for the elderly in regards to distance to the nearest intersection then to cross the street, whether to catch the bus or to return home? Sometimes elimination doesn’t necessarily mean better.

The recent pedestrian fatality on Pali Highway and near Wood Street occurred in an unprotected crosswalk, where the new safety measure was recently installed. When state transportation officials were confronted about this accident, they stated their concern about the recent pedestrian accidents statewide.

Expressing their concern was nice, but it’s not what Nuuanu residents want to hear. What they want and highly deserve are permanent improvements now. Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen anytime soon.

The state planned a two-phase Pali Highway improvements program. Phase 2 includes evaluating pedestrian facilities on Pali Highway from Waokanaka Street to Vineyard Boulevard. Designs to improve the facilities are in the making. They plan to inform the community once the designs fall into place. The anticipated date to start is June 2019 and the anticipated end date is December 2020.

Let’s hope that the recently installed safety measure is successful.

In the meantime, everyone must do their part by being very attentive and looking out for each other. Everyone has the right to be safe. Strive to stay alive.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Columns generally run about 800 words (yes, they can be shorter or longer) and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

About the Author