PUHI — The most important rule of being a pedestrian is not to get hit by a car, said Kaua‘i Police Department officers during a safety rally assembly Friday at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Puhi.
Students from the CKMS Student Leaders program and senators from the different CKMS classes totaling about 60 students and teachers were joined by KPD officers and representatives of Farmers Insurance Hawai‘i at the rally in front of the school.
Farmers Insurance Hawai‘i president Michelle Saito said drivers need to be mindful of students walking to school and using crosswalks on busy streets, because of the new school year which started recently.
Nuhou Street is currently closed to through traffic due to the widening of Kaumuali‘i Highway, further aggravating the traffic situation fronting the school.
“You folks cross a four-lane road to get to your school,” KPD Lt. Rob Gausepohl said. “Sometimes, drivers don’t always see you. You could be right by using the crosswalk, but if the driver cannot see you, you could be seriously injured, or even killed.”
Gausepohl said the advice is not meant to scare pedestrians, but to make them aware of situations where you could be in the right, but still become a victim, noting an incident on Rice Street where a family, after passing in front of a stopped truck, was almost hit by a car who was not able to see them in the crosswalk.
Another situation adding to the traffic congestion is the drop-off lane inside the school’s main parking lot where cars stacked up close to the entrance, this situation existing following the start of school.
KPD officer Ken Carvalho noted that exits from the parking lot should be a one-way right turn only due to the added traffic on Kaneka Street resulting from the closure of Nuhou Street.
“Chiefess Kamakahelei is located off Kaumuali‘i Highway near the always-busy Kukui Grove Center,” Saito said in a release. “Along with drivers going to work and to the nearby Kaua‘i Community College, this is a dangerous traffic corridor with crosswalks going across the four-lane highway which students use going to school. Drivers are often distracted by other motorists and congestion during the morning rush hour.”
CKMS Principal Debra Badua joined the group, discussing ways to make the students’ trip to school safer with the police officers and the insurance group.
“Drivers need to remember the speed limit in front of school zones on Kaua‘i is 15 miles per hour,” Saito said. “Drivers must also stop for buses loading and unloading students. The fine for speeding in a school zone is $297.”
Following the sign waving event, Saito presented CKMS with a certified Hot Spots banner and invited students to enter the Farmers Insurance Hawai‘i “Hot Shots” video Public Service Announcement contest on traffic safety.
“Last year, the number of fatalities for pedestrians almost doubled,” Saito said. “Luckily, for Kaua‘i, there was no increase and we want to keep everyone safe.”
Melanie Joseph, marketing manager for Farmers Insurance Hawai‘i, said Oct. 14 is the deadline to submit a 27-second video highlighting traffic safety.
The contest on safe driving laws and practices is open to middle and high school students across the state.
The school of the first place video will receive $1,500 for their winning video as well as having the video air on television. The second and third place schools will receive $1,000 and $500, respectively.
The Farmers Insurance Hot Spots program was started in 2002 in response to increased accidents and fatalities due to speeding. Over the years, the program has been expanded to include pedestrian safety, especially for senior citizens in the community.
Schools or concerned community members interested in holding a Hot Spots event in their neighborhood should call Farmers Insurance Hawai‘i at (808) 544-3988.
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.