Tragic. Horrific. Senseless. Preventable.

These four words, in a nutshell, describe just about every pedestrian fatality that has occurred on the streets of Honolulu.

In spite of all our efforts to date, the number of pedestrian accidents and fatalities are increasing at an alarming rate. According to the Hawaii Department of Transportation, between 2017 and 2018 alone, pedestrian fatalities increased 180 percent statewide!

The magnitude of the problem demands that state and city leaders proactively explore any and all approaches and strategies that will stop these needless injuries and deaths. At this point, nothing is off the table.

That is why we truly appreciate Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s announcement on Feb. 20 of the “Look All Ways” program — a seven-point initiative to increase the safety of pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists.

Pedestrians use crosswalks on Kalakaua Avenue at the Kanekapolei Street intersection, near the Hyatt and Moana Hotels. 31 july 2016
Pedestrians use crosswalks on Kalakaua Avenue at the Kanekapolei Street intersection, near the Hyatt and Moana Hotels, July 2016. The authors call for action to improve street safety. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

There is no single, one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. It will take a multi-faceted approach, including more safety improvements at our crosswalks and intersections.

The Council recently considered several measures. Bill 83, CD 1 would allow motorists who have stopped for a pedestrian to use their vehicle’s hazard lights to alert other approaching drivers that a pedestrian is in the crosswalk.

The Council also approved Resolution 18-287 to urge the State Legislature to increase penalties for those who violate our pedestrian safety laws. Most notably, the Council’s Committee on Transportation held a discussion on pedestrian safety legislation.

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Pedestrian safety is a major issue nationally and many jurisdictions are proactively addressing it. The state of Washington, for example, created a pedestrian safety advisory council that regularly reviews and analyzes accident data and develops recommendations to improve pedestrian safety.

Plans Proposed

Washington also has a plan that establishes a goal of zero pedestrian deaths and zero pedestrian injuries by 2030. Thankfully, our Legislature is also considering a similar program.

The Los Angeles Police Department launched an initiative to distribute reflective vests and LED clip-on lights to pedestrians who were stopped for violating traffic laws, in lieu of issuing citations.

And Springfield, Missouri, limits the time of day that a pedestrian can cross a roadway outside of crosswalks and intersections, limits the crossing of arterial roadways and intersections to designated locations, and prohibits certain conduct between pedestrians and drivers on roadways with high volumes of traffic or high speed limits.

The Council will be considering similar measures for Oahu in the future. It should also be noted that the City and County of Honolulu is working on finalizing the O’ahu Pedestrian Master Plan.

“There is no single, one-size-fits-all solution to this problem.”

Mainland jurisdictions recognize that successfully eliminating serious injuries and fatalities requires partnerships between government, community groups, non-profits, and concerned citizens.

We introduced Council Resolution 19-32 for the specific purpose of organizing an island-wide pedestrian safety conference, bringing together experts as well as all stakeholders to share ideas and develop a plan with a vision for a safer Oahu. Mayor Caldwell has expressed support for this conference and will be working with the Council in organizing one.

Pedestrian safety conferences have been, or are scheduled to be held across the country. The Seattle Department of Transportation successfully organized a Road Safety Summit which resulted in the adoption of a Road Safety Action Plan with the goal of achieving zero fatalities and zero serious injuries on roadways.

In order to effectively address this issue, we need to get everyone on board. Beyond government, supportive organizations such as AARP Hawaii, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the Honolulu Bicycling League, along with community leaders are important partners to get the word out and get more people involved.

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