Bill to ban electronic devices for crossing pedestrians represents latest push to make roads safer

Earlier this year, a group called Smart Growth America named Hawaii the most dangerous state for elderly pedestrians.

Overall, it ranked Hawaii 26th in the nation in pedestrian deaths per capita.

But it seems like we could be seeing some positive change.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, so far this year, there’s been only one pedestrian death on Oahu’s public roadways.

Looking ahead, a potential new law could add another layer of safety.

Bill 6, which is awaiting the mayor’s approval, would make it illegal to look at a phone, tablet, gaming device, or anything electronic while crossing the street.

Get caught and you could be facing a fine from anywhere between $15 to $99.

It’s all for the sake of safety and potentially saving lives.

“The number-one reason for pedestrian crashes and accidents is inattentive behavior, both on the side of the pedestrian or the driver just not paying attention to each other,” said Lance Rae of Walk Wise Hawaii. “We’re distracted. It’s important that we realize as pedestrians that we’re not always safe in a crosswalk.”

According to NHTSA, across the state, 32 people died in pedestrian accidents last year, which is higher than any of the previous 10 years.

Recently, there’s been many efforts to make streets safer, from bright-colored flags placed in West and East Oahu to bring attention to pedestrians to extending the sidewalks in Chinatown.

But all these efforts mean nothing if drivers and pedestrians are not focused on the road.

“The Walk Wise Hawaii program educates pedestrians to be vigilant when they’re crossing the street. They must always look left, right, and left again. They continue looking until they safely make it to the other side of the street,” said Rae. “There’s not an invisible force field that’s going to stop a car from hitting you, and as drivers, you have to remember that our primary task is to drive from point A to point B and not to be distracted.”

August is Pedestrian Safety Month in Hawaii, and Walk Wise Hawaii has put together seven tips that every driver should follow:

  1. Always be prepared to stop when approaching a crosswalk. A pedestrian may be hidden from view.
  2. Be vigilant. Always look for pedestrian movement in your direction.
  3. Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Proceed when the pedestrian has safely passed your vehicle.
  4. Be aware that pedestrians can be hidden from view by stopped vehicles on multi-lane streets.
  5. When driving between dusk and dawn, watch for pedestrians in dark clothing. Always use your headlights.
  6. Always watch for pedestrians when backing out of driveways or parking stalls. Children can be hidden from view.
  7. Make sure that you are fit to drive. Any physical or medical changes can alter your driving abilities.

As for the ban on using your phone in a crosswalk, the mayor has until Friday to sign that into law.

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