Campaign aims to keep roads safe with eye contact, spirit of mahalo

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We all know the aloha spirit, but in the name of keeping our kupuna safe while crossing the street, there’s a new campaign based on the spirit of mahalo.

Alicia Nagasawa is a pedestrian. 

“Of course, a lot of cars they don’t stop they’re always rushing,” she said. “There was a couple of times I tried to cross the street. Just looking at the driver coming towards me, they’re looking at the light to change and they’ll just whiz by. Several times I almost got hit.”

She’s also a driver.

“Let me tell you. I’ve seen a lot of people when they cross – I’m the driver now – they don’t even look. They’re just looking straight ahead and what if I wasn’t looking?” she said.

AARP says Hawaii has the nation’s highest per-capita death rate for pedestrians 65 and older.

In an effort to change that, Lanakila Senior Center, Catholic Charities, AARP Hawaii, and Walk Wise Hawai’ shared a message of making eye contact and saying mahalo. 

They gathered in Liliha, an area with a large number of senior services, and many seniors who don’t have cars.

“You know Hawaii’s style is to say thank you. When you’re about to cross the street, you look at the motorist, you wave, say thank you. That also though allows you to look in their eyes and to make sure that the motorists see you,” explained Suzanne Chun Oakland, Lanakila Senior Center program coordinator.

It goes both ways.

“When we say thank you as pedestrians, also the motorists saying thank you at least lets us know as pedestrians that they acknowledge us, can see us, and are watching out for us,” said Chun Oakland.

Not everyone can have an escort with a sign to keep our kupuna safe, but the point is attention – getting it, and saying mahalo.

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