Friday, April 06, 2007


Protecting elderly pedestrians and the Law of the Splintered Paddle, Ke Kanawai Mamalahoe

Make no mistake, the Hawaii State Legislature, despite my complaints, often produces bold and progressive legislation. Hawaii was the first state in the nation to stand up for the rights of individuals by passing in 2003 a joint resolution affirming and protecting the individual liberties of all the people of Hawaii and calling for the repeal of the USA Patriot Act. This session a bill is moving forward (HB34, Darfur divestment) that will require the state retirement system to shed its investments that support the genocide in Sudan.

The safety of pedestrians has become a hot issue due to a sudden spurt of deaths this year. The state Department of Transportation had done nothing at all to improve pedestrian safety despite an August 2006 report by AARP on its survey of dangerous intersections. As we near the end of the legislative process, there are bills to require them to take action.

DOT's initial response was only to add countdown timers to crosswalk signals, but as the carnage continued, especially involving elderly pedestrians, advocacy groups and legislators debated the issue and refined the bills. Instead of studying the problem and taking action in 2010 (as the DOT responded), the bills now call for immediate action and include a provision for enforcement of existing laws. Something needs to be done to shift the focus from changing pedestrian behavior to correcting the dangerous driving habits of Hawaii motorists that result in death and injury.

There is some interesting reading in HB357. One section will be unique in the country if it passes into law. This section recognizes that pedestrians are entitled to protection according to the Hawaii State Constitution:
Making Hawaii's roadways safer for pedestrians is consistent with Kamehameha's famous law, Ke Kanawai Mamalahoe, the law of the splintered paddle, which assures that every man, woman, and child is able to travel freely and in peace. This law is established as state law in article IX, section 10, of the Hawaii state constitution:

"Let every elderly person, woman and child lie by the roadside in safety -- shall be a unique and living symbol of the State's concern for public safety."
It's interesting to see King Kamehameha's famous law invoked to protect our elderly pedestrians.

Will the Honolulu Police Department follow the King's edict and step up enforcement of laws by ticketing motorists?

Here is some history, from the Wikipedia:
Mamalahoe, or law of the splintered paddle, is a precept in Hawaiian law, originating with King Kamehameha I in 1797. The law, "Let every elderly person, woman and child lie by the roadside in safety," is enshrined in the state constitution, Article 9, Section 10, and has become a model for modern human rights law regarding the treatment of civilians and other non-combatants during battle. It was created when Kamehameha was fighting in Puna. His leg was caught in the reef, and a fisherman hit him mightily on the head with a paddle. Luckily, Kamehameha was able to escape. Years later, the same fisherman was brought before Kamehameha. Instead of ordering for him to be killed Kamehameha ruled that he had only been protecting his land and family, and so the Law of the Splintered Paddle was formed.

The complete original 1797 law in Hawaiian and translated to English:

Māmalahoe Kānāwai:
E nā kānaka,
E mālama ‘oukou i ke akua
A e mālama ho‘i ke kanaka nui a me kanaka iki;
E hele ka ‘elemakule, ka luahine, a me ke kama
A moe i ke ala
‘A‘ohe mea nāna e ho‘opilikia.
Hewa nā - Make.

English Translation

Law of the Splintered Paddle:

O my people,
Honor thy god;
Respect alike [the rights of] men great and humble;
See to it that our aged, our women, and our children
Lie down to sleep by the roadside
Without fear of harm.

Disobey, and die.


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