Afterthoughts: Road Rage
If you’re going to target a misdemeanor, I’ve got a better idea.
ILLUSTRATION: KIM SIELBECK
Last October when the city implemented its new law aimed at distracted pedestrians (or, as some call them, pedtextrians), we did an informal poll around the office. Do you look at your phone while you’re crossing the street? And does this really need to be a law?
As pedestrians, we all rolled our eyes and scoffed. After all, if motorists were following the law, there’d be no danger in reading that text, many agreed. The light’s red, folks! Stay back! But as a driver, I’m constantly white-knuckling my wheel and vaguely waving a “what are you doing” motion at pedestrians—whether they’re looking at their phones or just oblivious to the rules.
There’s one rule in particular that hardly anyone seems to follow: You’re not supposed to start crossing the street once the hand begins to flash. In principle, this is a great law. I can’t tell you how many times I as a driver couldn’t turn right on green because the onslaught of pedestrians crossing the street just didn’t stop. It’s even worse at intersections that say “no turn on red.” There’s no reprieve.
Every few months, I see police officers hanging around Fort Street Mall at Hotel Street, just waiting to ticket offenders. The thing is, there are no cars waiting to turn onto Hotel Street at this particular crosswalk, where cops walk up to those who dart across two lanes with 3 seconds remaining (and make it safely across, with time to spare) and hand them a ticket. Sure, the threat of a fine has curbed my crossing against the flashing hand (at least until I’ve scanned the area and confirmed there are no police officers around—then I’m all for it), but wouldn’t it be more effective to enforce it somewhere it’s actually problematic? Here are three spots downtown where I would gladly welcome watchdog officers:
Where Fort Street meets South Beretania Street. Hawai‘i Pacific University students continually cross against the hand while I’m stuck in my car trying to turn before my light turns red.
The intersection of South King and Bethel streets. Even when the little white man is telling me to walk, drivers act as if they have a green arrow instead of just a green light (which means you have to yield, people!) and have almost run me over on more than one occasion.
Hotel Street and Nu‘uanu Avenue. Bicyclists are allowed on the road here—unlike cars, since Hotel is a bus lane—but that doesn’t stop them from weaving through pedestrians on the sidewalk, where it’s illegal, and dangerous, to ride.
While we’re at it, how about focusing on bicyclists going through red lights and riding the wrong way—you know, the things that can get someone killed—rather than ticketing for outdated registrations?
Laws are meant to keep us safe, so we might as well make it illegal to listen to music too loud, eat while we drive or drive with one foot out the window (how do you even bend that way?). If everybody had to retake their driving test every 10 years, I bet some licensed drivers wouldn’t pass. I mean, do you know what to do at a flashing yellow signal? (I just took a practice test and, well, I didn’t.) We could all use a refresh now and then.
But most importantly, people need to just use common sense and courtesy. If you see someone waiting to turn, let them turn. If people are still in the crosswalk looking at their phones when the light changes, don’t run them down.
If cops want to go after those who don’t use turn signals, though, I’m all for it.