Hawai‘i Parenting Tips: How Street-Savvy Are Your Keiki Pedestrians?

Five ways to protect kids on the streets, crosswalks and parking lots of O‘ahu.


Photo: Getty Images


After hearing about the Jan. 28 vehicle collision that killed three pedestrians and injured others in Kaka‘ako, I’ve been thinking a lot about how parents can help their kids stay safe on our streets. I’ve got a 2-year-old daughter and watch my best friend’s 17-month-old son regularly, so the three of us are out and about every day. Where we live in the Salt Lake area, crosswalks get congested with Moanalua students after school, and cars are parked bumper-to-bumper on the streets. I drive ultra-slow since kids sometimes dash out from behind parked vehicles!


Photo: Getty Images


Traffic dangers feel amplified now after the tragic accident.


There’s no law in Hawai‘i that dictates how old pedestrian kids have to be before they can walk by themselves. It’s up to us, adults, to make sure we teach our kids well.


Here are five safety tips that I hope you can share with your keiki and family members:


1. Be A Star.


Be in 100-percent mama and papa bear mode when you’re in a parking lot or close to driveways. I’m especially hyper-alert in crowded parking lots like Costco, Walmart, Ala Moana Center and Target. You can teach the STAR method to your children:


  • S: Stop and stand still when you get out of the car.
  • T: Touch a designated place on the car and wait.
  • A: Pay attention to what’s going on around you, and listen to your parent.
  • R: Be ready to grab a parent’s hand when they tell you it’s time to go.


Photo: Getty Images


Or, lazy mom confession: I just park near the shopping carts and plop the kids inside one after parking, so I can wheel them into the store without worrying.


2. Keep Looking.


Teach your kids to cross the street only at the corner or at a crosswalk. Jaywalking is illegal in Hawai‘i. When crossing at a lighted intersection, use the pedestrian signal button and wait for the light indicator. (If you’ve got younger keiki, they typically love pressing buttons!). Follow the left-right-left rule. Look before crossing and continue to look while crossing. For more safety tips, view the Walk Wise Hawai‘i brochure, which is also written in multiple languages.


3. Stay Far Away.


If your kids take the school or public bus, teach them to stand on the side of the road at the bus stop. Always stand at least 10 feet away from where the bus will stop. While waiting for the bus, be alert and watch the moving vehicles around you.


4. Unplug and Disconnect.


Absolutely no screens when crossing the street! Enforce this if you have older kids and always set a good example (even if you’re really into that Pokemon Go game). Here in Hawai‘i, minimum fines for using a cell phone while crossing a street or highway start at $15; for repeat offenders, the penalty ranges from $75 to $99. Whether it’s a video game or a phone, screens can be a distraction, and the risks just aren’t worth that one downward glance.


Photo: Getty Images


5. Use Positive Reinforcement.


Praise younger kids when they follow your directions, especially if they have a hard time listening, holding hands and standing still. Give comments, such as: “Good job holding my hand today!” or “I’m proud of how you looked both ways before crossing the street.” Sticker charts in the car just for these occasions can work, too.


Did You Know?

  • According to the state Department of Health, pedestrian fatalities are the sixth-leading cause of injury-related deaths in Hawaiʻi.
  • In 2018, there were 29 pedestrian fatalities on the island of Oʻahu alone.
  • In addition to the fatalities, health department statistics show Emergency Medical Serv­ices respond to a yearly average of 529 pedestrian incidents on Oʻahu.