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Five pedestrians have died on roads so far this year

There were seven deaths total in 2018

A memorial has been set up for Joey Ruiz, a moped driver who was killed in a hit-and-run crash on Puunene Avenue last June. A little farther Kahului-side of the memorial on Puunene Avenue at the East Hawaii Street intersection, a 56-year-old woman was killed after being struck by a vehicle on Jan. 7. There have been five pedestrian fatalities so far this year; there were seven in all of 2018. This photo was taken Thursday. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

With five pedestrians killed in collisions on Maui roads this year, police are reminding both drivers and pedestrians to stay alert and to avoid distractions.

“We would like to urge everyone to help reduce injuries and the tragic loss of life by focusing on traffic safety, whether they’re in a vehicle or a pedestrian,” said acting Lt. Nick Krau, commander of the police Traffic Section. “Everybody’s so busy with life now, having multiple jobs, picking up kids, going here and there. It’s really easy to be distracted while driving. Even as pedestrians, it’s very easy to be distracted.

“We all need to remind ourselves it’s everyone’s responsibility.”

The five pedestrian deaths represent 71 percent of the seven traffic deaths so far this year. Three of the pedestrians were killed while walking on the roadway — two on Maui Veterans Highway and one on Wailea Alanui Drive.

Another pedestrian, a 56-year-old woman, was walking across Puunene Avenue in a crosswalk near East Hawaii Street in Kahului when she was struck Jan. 7.

A 71-year-old man was walking on the shoulder of Makani Road in Makawao when he was hit by a vehicle that fled Feb. 9.

The pedestrian deaths occurred at night or in the early morning before sunrise.

“Almost all pedestrian fatalities are preventable,” Krau said. “They’re definitely tragic. Just one fatality is one too many.”

For pedestrians, it’s important to wear clothing that’s visible, Krau said.

“That’s just being a responsible pedestrian,” he said. “It’s really important, too, that we all remember our roadways are very dark, not like larger cities that have a lot of street lights.”

To try to help reduce the number of pedestrian deaths, police recommend that drivers slow down and look for pedestrians.

“They may not be walking where they should be or may be hard to see — especially at night, in poorly lit conditions, including at dusk or dawn and in bad weather,” police said in a news release.

Police also reminded drivers to follow pedestrian safety laws by always stopping or yielding for pedestrians in a crosswalk.

“Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk,” police said. “They may be stopped for pedestrians crossing the street.”

Police also reminded drivers to slow down whenever children may be present, such as in school zones and neighborhoods.

For pedestrians, police recommended walking on a sidewalk or path when available. When a sidewalk or path isn’t available, pedestrians should walk on the shoulder facing traffic, police said.

If a crosswalk or intersection isn’t available, pedestrians should locate a well-lit area, wait for a gap in traffic that will allow enough time to cross safely and continue to watch for traffic, police said. Pedestrians must yield the right of way to vehicles while crossing the road outside a crosswalk.

Police also recommended pedestrians:

• Stay alert; don’t be distracted by electronic devices, including smartphones, music players and other devices that would take your eyes and ears away from the road.

• Be cautious when sharing the road with vehicles, even if you have the right of way.

• Never assume a driver sees you; he or she could be distracted. Make eye contact with drivers as they approach or watch for them slowing down. When in doubt, wait until traffic passes.

• Be predictable by crossing streets at a crosswalk or intersection when possible.

• Be visible by wearing bright clothes during the day and reflective material (especially on arms, legs and feet) or use a flashlight at night.

• Avoid walking around traffic after drinking alcohol or using drugs, which impair judgment and coordination. Plan for friends to help you get home safely.

The number of pedestrian deaths on Maui this year is higher than the one pedestrian death at the same time last year. Statewide, pedestrian deaths have declined with 12 so far this year, compared with 15 at the same time last year, Krau said.

Of the pedestrian deaths this year, six were on Oahu, five were on Maui and one was on Kauai. There are no pedestrian deaths on Hawaii island so far.

In 2018, seven pedestrians were killed in traffic deaths in Maui County.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.

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