(Star Advertiser) Editorial: Support measures for traffic safety

(Source: Star Advertiser)

In an effort to address persistent threats to pedestrians and motorists, state lawmakers and city officials are weighing measures that aim to improve safety on Hawaii’s streets and highways. Among them: initiatives stressing crosswalk visibility, a program that deploys cameras to nab red-light running cars, and tougher penalties for drunken driving.

Sadly, these tactics are in order due rising counts of collisions and fatalities. Statewide, a record- breaking 44 pedestrians were killed in crashes in 2018. The need for more vigilance was underscored as urgent in the aftermath of last month’s horrific crash in Kakaako that killed three pedestrians and left four other victims injured.

Advancing at the state Capitol is Senate Bill 663, which would authorize each county to establish its own red-light camera enforcement program. Supporting the proposal is the state Transportation Department, pointing out that during a five-year period ending 2016, there were 1,616 crashes at intersections caused by traffic signal violations.

Two dozen states are now using traffic-light enforcement; and the strategy is credited with helping to reduce collisions. However, cameras have also touched off controversy — here and elsewhere. Back in 2002, the short-lived “van cams” state law, devised to ticket speeding motorists, failed to anticipate snags tied to enforcement and fine collection.

This time around, the state intends to thoroughly size up potential trouble spots well in advance of a proposed launch in July 2020. SB 663 would create a committee to study the enforcement proposal and related community concerns, recommending a final version of the bill to lawmakers next year.

That’s a sensible approach to a program that will prompt questions about the reliability of technology, and whether the move is too heavy-handed. It’s not. The same holds for two advancing proposals that target impaired driving offenders.

>> House Bill 753 would strengthen the state’s ignition interlock program with more requirements and offer courts the option of using a constant sobriety monitoring system. In persuasive supporting testimony, Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s Hawaii chapter pointed to national research that found in the absence of a combination of license revocation and use of an interlock, up to 75 percent of convicted drunken drivers continue to drive on a suspended license.

>> House Bill 703 would prohibit anyone convicted of a drunken- driving offense from purchasing or publicly consuming alcohol for three years. If effectively enforced, this proposal could add a welcome layer of public-safety protection against avoidable tragedy.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2017 Hawaii ranked among the worst drunken-driving states, with alcohol-related fatalities representing 39 percent of all traffic deaths. The national average that year was 29 percent. The state has not been inattentive to this matter, however.

Two years ago, the Legislature approved a measure giving courts the option to require drivers charged with driving under the influence of an intoxicant within five years of a prior conviction, to be fitted with an alcohol-monitoring ankle bracelet that can be used in conjunction with an interlock device.

Focusing on pedestrians, Mayor Kirk Caldwell is now pitching a reasonable set of relatively low-cost initiatives combining public education and awareness. One calls for stenciling signs on streets reminding people to “look all ways” in crosswalk areas. Also in the lineup: safety flags, reflective delineator posts, and stepped-up enforcement of traffic violations.

So far this year, through mid-February, there have been 19 traffic fatalities statewide, with nine involving pedestrians. The stubborn march of distressing statistics signals that these proposed additional driving controls and traffic-calming plans are warranted to better safeguard foot traffic and vehicular travel

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