Barbara Kim Stanton
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
Former state Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland believes that taking the time to say “Thank you” before crossing the street could save lives.
Oakland, now the program coordinator at Lanakila Multi-Purpose Senior Center, is organizing a pedestrian safety rally to be held Wednesday, May 2, at several locations in Honolulu. AARP Hawai‘i, along with Catholic Charities Hawai‘i, Walk Wise Hawaii and other senior centers and schools, will be helping with sign-waving. We’re spreading the message that pedestrians need to make eye contact and wave or say “Mahalo” to drivers before crossing the street.
Drivers, too, need to be aware of pedestrians and acknowledge that they see them as they stop to let them cross the street by waving back a “You’re welcome.”
“It’s the aloha spirit,” Oakland said. “In Hawai‘i, we say ‘Thank you’ a lot, so it should be natural for pedestrians to look at drivers and wave or say ‘Mahalo’ before crossing the street and for drivers to acknowledge pedestrians. If everybody did that, we would save lives.”
Keeping people safe on the road is a two-way street. Drivers and pedestrians have to work together to reduce pedestrian fatalities. Oakland notes that pedestrians sometimes proceed to cross, thinking that they’ve made eye contact with drivers. But the driver may not have seen them, so waving back or making some kind of “You’re welcome” gesture is another way of keeping pedestrians safe.
It’s especially important in Hawai‘i that we make crossing the street safer. We have the highest per capita fatality rate in the nation for pedestrian deaths of people age 65 and older, with about five deaths per 100,000. We also have a lot of kupuna (elders) who are active, and they shouldn’t have to cross their fingers before they cross the street.
The sign-waving campaign to raise awareness about pedestrian safety will take place on Wednesday, May 2, from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. at senior centers and nearby schools in Honolulu. Other locations may be added.
The locations thus far are the Lanakila Multi-Purpose Senior Center and Lanakila Elementary School near 1640 Lanakila Ave.; the Waikiki Community Center and Jefferson Elementary School near 310 Paoakalani Ave., Kühiö Avenue and Ala Wai Boulevard; the Na Kupuna Makamae Senior Center near 653 Ala Moana Blvd. and the Moiliili Community Center near 2335 South King St.
If you would like to join AARP Hawai‘i, Catholic Charities and other volunteers waving signs to raise awareness of pedestrian safety, call Suzanne Chun Oakland at 847-1322 or email her at Suzanne.firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call Merle O’Neill at the Waikiki Community Center at 932-1802 or email email@example.com, Rhonda Burk at Na Kupuna Makamae at 773-7047 or email Rhonda@pacificgatewaycenter.org or Rachel Yamashita at the Moiliili Community Center at 955-1555 or email RachelY@moiliilicc.org.
Oakland said she’s organizing the sign-waving effort because even though she’s not running for office anymore, she still wants to be active in improving our community.
So, if you are walking or driving in Honolulu on May 2 and you see us waving signs and promoting safer streets, give us a wave, watch out for pedestrians and other cars and say “Thank you.”
Barbara Kim Stanton has been the state director of AARP Hawai‘i since 2005. She writes about living a life of real possibilities, where age is not a limit and experience equals wisdom.