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SB2630 SD1: Pedestrians should be allowed to cross streets at their discretion

The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the Senate Committee on Judiciary on Feb. 27, 2024.
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Feb. 27,  2024, 10 a.m.
Hawaii State Capitol
Conference Room 016 and Videoconference

To: Senate Committee on Judiciary
      Sen. Karl Rhoads, Chair
      Sen. Mike Gabbard, Vice-Chair

  From: Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
             Ted Kefalas, Director of Strategic Campaigns

RE: TESTIMONY IN SUPPORT OF SB2630 SD1 — RELATING TO PEDESTRIANS

Aloha Chair Rhoads, Vice-Chair Gabbard and Committee Members,

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would like to offer its comments in support of the portion of  SB2630 SD1 that would allow pedestrians to act contrary to the traffic code after exercising reasonable care that there is no danger of collision with a moving vehicle.

In other words, this bill trusts people to cross the street after checking carefully that there are no cars coming.

Many people might assume that such legislation is unnecessary, or assume that it is the product of an overly rigid “nanny state.”

Indeed, the enforcement of statutes relating to pedestrians is rigid, and the statutes themselves are — as noted in the language of this bill — “needlessly restrictive.”

Any Hawaii resident can regale you with a story of the absurdity of Hawaii’s pedestrian laws, including the expensive citation they or a friend received for being in the crosswalk a few seconds too soon or too late. Such stories are evidence that the current system contributes to an adversarial relationship between law enforcement and the public.

Advocates for the “right to walk” point out that jaywalking laws have been disproportionately enforced against disadvantaged groups and minorities.[1] The bill notes that “fines for pedestrians can have a disproportionate impact on people who do not drive and who primarily rely upon walking as a means of transportation.”

As for the legitimate worries about safety, data from Virginia’s 2020 decriminalization of jaywalking demonstrates that right-to-walk laws do not lead to an increase in pedestrian injuries or deaths.[2] After all, people crossing the street are more concerned about not getting hit by a car than avoiding a fine.

Finally, as the bill points out, decriminalizing jaywalking would encourage more people to walk while making the streets friendlier to pedestrians.

We commend the committee for considering this bill and encourage it to recognize the “right to walk.”

Hawaii residents can be trusted to cross the street safely.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Ted Kefalas
Director of Strategic Campaigns
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
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[1] Angie Schmitt, “The Progress of Jaywalking Reform,” America Walks. June 19, 2022.
[2] Ibid.

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