A staggering increase in pedestrian fatalities is happening — and Hawaii is leading the nation — not the kind of top ranking the Aloha State wants to have.

A new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association says “crossing the street should not be a death sentence” — and calls for every state to increase efforts to keep people alive. 

Hawaii’s pedestrian deaths increased by 18-hundred percent from the first six months of 2017 to the first six months of last year.

The disturbing numbers are in the new report projecting that when all the numbers are final, national pedestrian fatalities for 2018 will be the highest since 1990. 

The report points to population increases and the rise in overall smartphone use as possible reasons.

Another surprising factor? The vehicles people are driving. The report found more people are buying SUV’s, which generally cause more severe pedestrian injuries than cars.

Lance Rae, coordinator of Walk Wise Hawaii says, taking a look at the Hawaii pedestrian landscape, “every year our population gets bigger. Every year we’re driving bigger cars, so the chance of surviving being hit by an SUV are less. Our population is getting older and we’re also getting more and more distracted.”

Another factor the report brought up, is the push toward healthier living. Encouraging people to walk and bicycle has increased pedestrian interaction with vehicles. 

Senator Karl Rhoads has a harrowing tale of his own to tell. 

“My wife was riding her bicycle a couple of weeks ago and go hit by a car, when she was, you know, she had the legal right-of-way. She’s okay, but it’s a, it’s a personal, it’s a very ‘in your face,’ in my face reminder that, you know, it doesn’t just happen to other people.”

For the whole of 2017, Hawaii had 15 pedestrian deaths — one of the lowest years on record. For 2018, a record-high 44 people were killed. So far this year, nine pedestrians have died — 40 percent of the total fatalities.

Even though pedestrian fatality reports are all about numbers and percentages – each number represents a life. A loved one who has been taken away.

Rae reminds drivers and pedestrians to be safety-minded and to pay attention while on the road, whether on foot, or on wheels.
“We really need to change our behaviors. Both the pedestrian, and the driver.”

Rhoads says bills calling for installation of cameras to catch people speeding through red lights; to install crossing lights at un-signaled crosswalks, like on the Pali Highway in Nuuanu; and a “Vision Zero” bill, to design traffic to make roadways safer and eliminate fatalities, are moving through the legislature.