Maui Metropolitan Area Designated Most Dangerous in the State for Pedestrians

June 17, 2019, 8:10 PM HST · Updated June 18, 9:24 AM
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A new report lists Hawai’i as being the third-most dangerous state in the nation for older pedestrians. In particular the report notes that the Maui metropolitan area of Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina is the most dangerous area in the state for pedestrians of all ages.

The report was put together by Smart Growth America, on behalf of the AARP (American Association of Retired People) and highlights the risk of being struck by a car and killed while walking in Hawai‘i, especially for kupuna. The report, entitled Dangerous by Design 2019, ranked Hawai‘i 30th  in the nation based on the number of overall pedestrian fatalities, but third-most dangerous state for pedestrians 50 and older.

“Our kupuna should not have to cross their fingers that they will be safe every time they cross the street,” said Jackie Boland, AARP Hawai‘i’s Outreach Director. “Hawai‘i has spent more than a decade ranked in the top three states for older pedestrian/auto crashes per capita and it is time for the counties and the state to look at the root cause of these crashes that are disproportionately affecting our kupuna and design specific counter measures to address them.”

The report also found that roads in Maui’s metropolitan area of Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina were the most dangerous in the state for all pedestrians with a Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) of 70, compared the national average of 55 and the state PDI of 36. Urban areas of Honolulu are generally safer than other areas of the state with a PDI of 31. (The Pedestrian Danger Index is based on the number of pedestrians killed by drivers, controlled to the number of people who walk to work). Honolulu’s PDI improved slightly from the 2009, when it was 34.6.

The report comes after Maui County and a number of community organizations banded together in recent years in order to improve infrastructure for pedestrians. The most recent example was the push for a roundabout at the intersection of Maui Lani Parkway and Kamehameha Avenue.

“Roundabouts are safer for pedestrians and will cut wait times for drivers,” said Laksmi Abraham, Community Program Manager of Blue Zones Project Maui. “While we recognize this study brings many concerns, we are encouraged by the recent collaboration of Blue Zones Project, Healthy Eating Active Living Coalition (HEAL), Maui Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Maui Bicycling League, and the County of Maui’s commitment to a higher standard of built environment safety for our community.

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“Recent efforts to prioritize policy initiatives, specifically regarding Complete Streets Guidelines and Vision Zero are examples of ways we will improve conditions and in turn, save lives in the long run.”

“One pedestrian death on our county and state roads is unacceptable,” said Maui County Public Works Director Rowena Dagdag-Andaya. “I”m very pleased that Mayor Victorino has made it a priority to support our department efforts in developing safer and more walkable streets, and supporting a Vision Zero policy that we hope will result in the reduction and eventually the elimination of pedestrian deaths in Maui County.”

Lance Rae, Statewide Coordinator for the Department of Transportation’s Walk Wise program, said in response to the report that pedestrian safety is as much about education as it is about improving infrastructure.

“Our focus has been to bring safety awareness to the community. We need to change behavior, and educate people so we not only have smarter pedestrians but smarter drivers,” said Rae. “Education in combination with these infrastructure improvement projects will make a difference for the better on Maui.”

According to the report in the decade between 2008 and 2017, drivers struck and killed 226 pedestrians in Hawai‘i. A disproportionate number of the deaths were kupuna. About 59.3 percent of the pedestrian deaths, or 134 people, were 50 and older. A 50+ pedestrian in Hawai‘i is 2.6 times more likely to die on the state’s streets and highways than someone under 50.

The Dangerous By Design report looked at the difference between per capita deaths of older and younger pedestrians to rank how dangerous a state is for older residents. Hawai’i follows the District of Columbia, where older residents are 2.88 times more likely to die on roads and Vermont’s relative risk of 2.66. New York and Massachusetts are the other most dangerous states for older pedestrians.

Hawai’i also has the dubious distinction of having the highest per-capita deaths of people 65 and older, with 3.56 pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 residents 65 or older. The average is down from the last Dangerous by Design report in 2016 when Hawai‘i’s per capita death rate was 4.96 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents 65 and older. Ten years ago, in the 2009 report, Hawai’i led the nation in 65+ pedestrian deaths with an average of nearly seven deaths per capita.

Honolulu, Kaua‘i and the state have passed Complete Streets laws to require transportation departments to look at access, safety and mobility for all Hawai‘i road users and not just vehicles Honolulu also recently passed an Age-Friendly Honolulu law, which will require the city to review all city streets to see if they meet people of all ages.

In addition, the counties and the state are taking steps to implement Vision Zero policies to prevent and ultimately eliminate all traffic-related fatalities. Hawai‘i County created a Vision Zero task force in March. Maui County set a Vision Zero goal, Honolulu passed a Vision Zero resolution last year and Kaua‘i County has taken steps to improve their streets. In addition, the Legislature passed House Bill 757, CD1 to require state and county transportation departments to adopt Vision Zero policies and take concrete steps to improve engineering, enforcement, education and emergency response to reduce traffic deaths.

“There has been some progress but much more needs to be done to educate drivers and pedestrians, enforce existing laws and engineer safer streets,” Boland said. “We support Vision Zero policies to prevent and ultimately eliminate all traffic-related fatalities and urge the governor to sign HB 757, CD1 to take real action to reduce and eliminate traffic deaths in Hawai‘i.”

To view the supplemental report for Hawai’i visit: https://smartgrowthamerica.org/app/uploads/2019/06/Dbd2019_State_HI.pdf.  The full Dangerous by Design report, including an interactive map of all pedestrian deaths in the last 10 years is available at https://smartgrowthamerica.org/dangerous-by-design/. Learn more about AARP’s work to promote complete streets and livable communities at https://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/getting-around/

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