Making Hawai`i’s roadways safer to ensure that all roadway users arrive at their destinations will be one of my administration’s top priorities. As we look at many of the motor vehicle, pedestrian, motorcycle and bicycle fatalities, it is with sadness that we realize that almost all of them were senseless and could have been prevented.
Far too often, we all have heard the stories of drivers who were intoxicated, speeding or distracted, causing crashes that resulted in a death and/or serious injuries. We’ve seen the stories of children whose lives were cut short way too soon because their parents or caregivers failed to protect them by properly using a child safety seat or failing to install the seats correctly. There are too many stories of people who were killed because they chose not to wear a seat belt and were ejected from their vehicle. And there are many who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. They did not do anything wrong themselves, but were the victims of other people’s mistakes.
Recognizing the need to combat these preventable tragedies, the Hawaii` Department of Transportation has been leading a collaborative statewide effort to update and implement a comprehensive, statewide Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP). Over 100 dedicated government and community stakeholders from traffic safety, public safety, law enforcement, judiciary, highway design and data management worked together to ensure that prioritized strategies in the five-year plan address key issues and focus efforts and resources in eight emphasis areas: (1) Impaired driving; (2) Speeding; (3) Occupant protection; (4) Pedestrian and bicycle safety; (5) Motorcycle and moped safety; (6) Lane departure and intersection safety; (7) Data and safety management systems; and (8) First responder capabilities. Each strategy is part of a multi-faceted solution envisioned by the stakeholders to improve traffic safety in Hawai`i and to reduce the number of traffic-related fatalities and injuries.
The SHSP serves as the guiding force for Hawai`i traffic safety partners to effect change on and off our roadways. Whether you suffer the loss of a loved one, have to care for someone injured in a motor vehicle crash, pay for increasing medical or motor vehicle insurance coverage, or have to sit in traffic due to a crash investigation, we are all affected in some way.
But there is hope. During calendar year 2014, there were 95 motor vehicle fatalities, the lowest in over 20 years. This reduction shows that we can and will make a difference by working together. Although the decrease in fatalities is something to be proud of, even one life lost is one too many. We still have a long way to go to reach our ultimate goal of zero traffic deaths.
As a member of our Hawai`i community and a roadway user, I hope that you will do your part. Educate yourself on the SHSP and traffic safety priorities in our state. Obey all traffic laws. Support local legislation to strengthen our traffic safety laws. Share this information with your friends and family. Most importantly, be a responsible roadway user.
Together we can make a difference.
David Y. Ige