Turning right on red could become a thing of the past

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In 2018 there were 43 pedestrian fatalities compared with 15 a year ago, a 187 percent increase. In the first month of the year the pedestrian death toll is at six, versus four a year ago.

To protect pedestrians, Mayor Kirk Caldwell asked lawmakers to look at eliminating a driver’s ability to turn right at red lights on islands where the population exceeds 500-thousand — meaning, Oahu. 

The bill and others like it have the support of Walk Wise Hawaii.

Spokesman Lance Rae says, “Any sort of law or practice that limits the interaction between a pedestrian and a moving vehicle is a good thing.”

Rae cited as good examples, certain crosswalks on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki. Traffic comes to a standstill to allow pedestrians to cross the street, even diagonally. No turns are allowed on red. 

At other intersections involving one-way streets, left turns are currently permitted on red, but the proposal would end that, as well.

Steven Wong, owner of Wong Way Driving Academy, believes the bill will help keep pedestrians safe. He teaches students to always be watchful for pedestrians because they have no protection — and in an accident, the pedestrian always suffers the worst injuries.

At the same time, he believes the proposal’s impact on traffic and drivers, will NOT be positive.

“It’ll probably increase stress levels. We already have one of the worst reputations for being the worst road rage. That’s probably not going to help it at all.”

Approaching an intersection, Wong highlighted one effect of the bill that could add to drivers’ stress.

“So if this rule was in place, nobody would be able to make a right turn, regardless of whether there’s pedestrians or not.”

Rae, of Walk Wise Hawaii, says the number-one reason for pedestrian crashes is inattentive behavior. 

Legislation can and does change behavior, but if drivers and pedestrians aren’t paying attention — none of that matters. 

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