Honolulu police are cracking down on both drivers and pedestrians after three people were killed or critically injured in crashes on Oahu this weekend.
So far this year, 52 people have been killed on Oahu roads compared to 32 at this same time last year. That includes an alarming increase in pedestrian fatalities: 23 so far this year compared to four last year.
On Saturday, at around 3:05 p.m., police say a 70-year-old man was riding his bicycle along Kapahulu Avenue, when he was hit by a truck near Kuhio Avenue. Police say the truck, which appeared to be an older model Chevy pickup, fled the scene. The man remains hospitalized in critical condition.
“We do have a couple still images of the pickup truck, so we do know it’s a white Chevy pickup truck. We don’t have any license plate or description of the vehicle operator,” said Capt. Ben Moszkowicz, Honolulu Police Department Traffic Division.
Police are asking anyone with information to call the Traffic Division hotline at (808) 723-3430.
Then just before 7 p.m., a man was killed when he was hit by a vehicle on Lauhala Street, just off Beretania Street near Queen’s Medical Center.
“We have a witness who said that they saw a male pedestrian lying in the driveway of the Queen’s Lauhala garage, and the male was acting very bizarre, rolling around on the ground. In the meantime, a 2017 Nissan Maxima driven by a 27-year-old Honolulu male entered the parking garage. From what we gathered at the time, we don’t think the driver was able to see the pedestrian,” said Moszkowicz.
Speed, drugs, and alcohol are not suspected to be factors for the driver in this crash, he noted.
Then on Sunday, just before 7 a.m., on Oahu’s North Shore, police say a 76-year-old man was walking his dog along Farrington Highway toward Kaena Point when he was hit by a car. His family spoke to KHON2 following the tragedy.
“We know that a white sedan being driven toward town in the eastbound lanes veered off the roadway at a high rate of speed and struck the male, killing him at the scene. The driver of the white sedan did not remain at the scene and fled the area,” said Moszkowicz.
That vehicle was recovered, however police say they have yet to positively identify the driver. Again, police are asking anyone with information to call the Traffic Division hotline at (808) 723-3430.
“We know who the owner is, and at this point, we don’t have enough probable cause to make an arrest and identify who the driver is, and that’s why we’re asking for help,” said Moszkowicz. “If there are people who saw someone driving the car that matches the description in the area, particularly around that time 6:50, 7 o’clock in the morning in the Waialua area, anywhere between the polo fields and town, saw this vehicle or a vehicle with damage, a white older model sedan with damage, and you can identify the driver, that would be very helpful to us and we ask that you come forward and help us with that.”
Moszkowicz says traffic enforcement is an ongoing operation, however, as Oahu’s fatality total continues to rise, his division will conduct a pedestrian operation every day in the month of October with multiple operations on some days.
“We did an operation today where we have pedestrian officers dressed in plain clothes who are pedestrians in marked crosswalks, and we’re pulling people over and issuing citations and warnings to those folks,” said Moszkowicz. “It’s not something that we like to do, again, to go out and give citations, but it’s something we feel we need to start the conversation.”
Individual patrol districts will also be conducting traffic enforcement as well, he adds.
As police are taking immediate action to turn things around, the city is looking at long-term solutions.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell calls the deadly trend heartbreaking, and is pushing a plan to make streets safer.
The mayor says the city is working on putting LED lighting all across the island to make the streets brighter.
“It’s incumbent I think on the government, both on the state and the city level, to make sure that we design our roads better with better lighting, better crossing areas,” he said.
He adds that he’s also working on making the streets more age friendly by installing more bulb-outs, which makes it easier for pedestrians to cross the street.