Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Factors that Explain Honolulu's High Pedestrian Accident Rate

Honolulu has a high number of pedestrian accidents. There are several factors at play. If properly adjusted, Hawaii's pedestrian accident rate is moderate.

1. Weather. Hawaii provides comfortable walking conditions year round.  That's not true for many other US urban areas. Many are too cold, e.g., Chicago and New York City, or too hot, e.g, Phoenix, and Houston.  Because of these conditions Honolulu pedestrians have many more opportunities, maybe more than twice the opportunities of Phoenix or Minneapolis pedestrians to get into accidents. However, national accident rates are not adjusted for this, nor for walkability.

2. Walkability. Honolulu historically has been a walkable community as it draws from Asian culture. Most other US cities developed more around the horse-and-buggy and later the car. Many US cities have skyways and underground pedestrian ways that eliminate traffic/pedestrian interactions. Honolulu's higher walkability comes with a higher risk for pedestrian accidents, particularly nowadays when many people connect to the digital world and partly depart from the real one.

3. Aging.  Compared to many other US cities of about one million people, Honolulu has a higher percentage of old people.  Unfortunately I have witnessed several of them making risky crossings. The city has removed several pedestrian crossings and has added crossing signals at high pedestrian volume locations.

4. DUI.  This is one area where Hawaii takes the lead in the nation (see Figure below).  Drug or alcohol impairment affects both drivers and pedestrians.  Poor judgement under the influence of substances greatly increases risk for all types of accidents, including pedestrian accidents.

5. Busy highways next to popular beach and surf spots.  Hawaii clearly needs some bypass roads in such areas because of the unsafe mix of heavy through traffic, multiple parking maneuvers and disorganized pedestrian crossings, e.g, Turtle Beach and several other spots statewide.

While Hawaii is shown to have the 4th worst pedestrian accident rate in the nation, if the data are properly adjusted, Hawaii's pedestrian accident record will be average.  Some of the reasons above also apply to bicycle and motorcycle accidents.  However, there are no reasons to adjust and excuse Hawaii's worst in the nation for DUI.

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