Sunday, January 21, 2007


City delay in fixing crossing signals is causing avoidable deaths and injuries

The AARP survey of dangerous crosswalks was released in August, 2006. It revealed that the length of time of many crossing signals is not long enough to allow everyone, especially the elderly, to cross safely.

So what needs to be done? Well, this isn't rocket science. The timing needs to be adjusted so that it is long enough for everyone to be protected. Maybe there are other things that can or should be done also, but the first thing is to get everyone safely to the other side of the street.

So how many signals have been adjusted? I don't think even one has been fixed. This smells like other situations where the city is only moved to install traffic signals when a sufficient number of people have been killed at an intersection. It's a practice that should be stopped.

In an article in today's Star-Bulletin, Pedestrian deaths to be fought on 3 fronts, the solution the city proposes is described:
Better crossing signals. The city Department of Transportation Services is asking for about $200,000 next year to begin installing countdown indicators at several crosswalk signals in the city.
So ok, a few more people are killed and then the crosswalks are changed to countdown and tell pedestrians what they already know: there isn't enough time for you to get across the street. How dumb.

Maybe the $200,000 could be spent on installing a second crossing button that would give additional time. Just telling someone they are out of time doesn't help--many people can't walk any faster, or they would. Some people can't see the signals (e.g., the blind). Others can't move their walker any faster than they do already. Someone may drop something and have to pick it up, losing a few seconds. Should these people be exposed to impatient drivers, or a driver in the right lane who can't see through the hulking SUV just to the left?

The city should move immediately to adjust the intersections that the AARP has already identified. Period. No more delays.

Governor Lingle's proposal to increase penalties for drivers who violate traffic laws is fine, except that we can't take comfort in laws when they are not enforced. Once again, the responsibility to protect lives in this case falls on the City and County of Honolulu. The police have to enforce laws that are already on the books or will be passed in the future.

You never see police at intersections, do you? Partly because of this, drivers ignore all sorts of laws. They don't signal for turns, they enter intersections right in front of pedestrians, and they speed through crosswalks. Oh yes...running red lights is a favorite driver sport.

It's not enough to just write about this. The City needs to take action. You can help by calling the mayor's office. His phone is 523-4141 and his email is . Tell him, enough already, fix those crosswalk signals before more people die. And put more police to work at intersections.

It seems there are plenty of drivers here who think that their needs come first. Some of them write letters to the editor blaming pedestrians for interfering with their speedy progress on the streets. No doubt armies of arrogant drivers will testify at the Capitol to oppose proposed new laws. I hope our legislators have the good sense to put the safety of pedestrians first.

Meanwhile, please call or email the mayor, and if you're so inclined, write letters to the editors yourself.


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