Barbara Kim Stanton
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

Editor’s note: We are pleased to introduce a new column to The Hawai‘i Herald — “Real Possibilities” — by AARP Hawaii state director Barbara Kim Stanton. “Real Possibilities” will address a wide range of issues aimed at enhancing the quality of life for all people as they age.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with nearly 38 million members nationwide, including 150,000 in Hawai‘i. It helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities; strengthens communities; and fights for the issues that matter most to families, such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse.

For more information on AARP Hawai‘i, visit http://www.aarp.org/states/hi. Stanton’s “Real Possibilities” column will be published in the second Hawai‘i Herald issue of each month.

Once again, Hawai‘i ranked as the deadliest state in the nation for people 65 and over who just want to walk across the street.

The latest “Dangerous by Design” report, released this month, examined pedestrian deaths from 2005 to 2014. It found that of the 251 pedestrians killed on Hawai‘i roads, 42 percent were 65 years of age or older. In fact, older residents are more likely to die on the streets of Hawai‘i than in any other state. Per capita pedestrian deaths of people 65 or older are about five per 100,000 here, more than double the national average.

Why are so many dying on Hawai‘i’s roads?

Unsafe roads due to the condition and design of the roads are a big factor. We also have too many older streets with no sidewalks and poor lighting. Many roads are designed for vehicles and not for walkers, and it’s too easy to go too fast on some roads.

We also have too many poor drivers who speed or drive while intoxicated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that alcohol or other drugs are factors in about half of all pedestrian deaths.

What can you do to keep yourself safe? Here are some tips from AARP, the CDC, and the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center:

• Be Seen: Wear bright-colored clothing. Carry a flashlight at night and wear retro-reflective clothing or armbands. Stand clear of buses, hedges, parked cars or other obstacles before crossing so drivers can see you.

• Look, Smile, Wave: Look left, right and left again, and make eye contact with drivers before crossing a street. Don’t rely solely on pedestrian signals and assume vehicles will stop. Look across ALL lanes you must cross and visually clear each lane before proceeding. Even if one motorist stops, do not presume that drivers in other lanes can see you and will stop for you.

• Ditch the Distractions: Stay sober. Avoid electronic devices that take your attention off the road.

• Look Before You Step: Obey traffic signals. Cross in marked crosswalks or at intersections rather than mid-block, if possible. Walk on sidewalks. If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic.

To reduce pedestrian deaths in Hawai‘i, we need what I call the three E’s: Engineering, Education and Enforcement.

Engineering means designing better streets and improving existing roads for pedestrians as well as cars. That means better lighting and visibility, sidewalks, proper crosswalk signal timing and bicycle lanes, as appropriate.

Education for both drivers and pedestrians is needed to be aware of traffic laws.

Enforcement of traffic laws is needed so laws are obeyed. Police must take drunk drivers off the road, catch speeders and prevent jaywalking.

It’s urgent we take action. By 2030, one in four people will be over 65. If our streets aren’t safe for them, more people will die.

You shouldn’t have to cross your fingers every time you cross the street.

Barbara Kim Stanton has been state director of AARP Hawaii since 2005. She writes about living a life of real possibilities, where age is not a limit and experience equals wisdom.

Visit AARP Hawaii here

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