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Victims turned advocates call for safer street legislation after fatal hit-and-run

Chevy Saniatan, mother of Sara Yara, a victim killed in a hit-and-run in February 2023.
Sabrina Bodon
Chevy Saniatan, mother of Sara Yara, a victim killed in a hit-and-run in February 2023.

The death of 16-year-old Sara Yara in front of her Honolulu high school last month aggressively renewed a call for safe streets throughout the state.

"Sadly, I lost my daughter to a horrific accident, well, we can't say 'accident' because this man didn't stop," Chevy Saniata, Sara's mother, said Monday, during a Safe Streets call-to-action at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol.

In this case, Sara and another teen student were crossing Kapiʻolani Boulevard in a marked crosswalk to get to McKinley High School, when a driver with more than 164 driving infractions hit them and sped off. (Michel Yoshiji Miyashiro, the alleged driver, turned himself in and was arrested and released pending an investigation.)

Several bills in this state Legislature session tackle safe streets, and that's what advocates and lawmakers gathering at the state Capitol called to have passed.

"In 2022, Hawaiʻi had 117 traffic-related fatalities, over 500 traffic-related serious injuries, which people are permanently paralyzed, or have their lives changed," Sen. Chris Lee of Oʻahu said. "What's really scary is this year, we're on track to do worse than that."

CJ Johnson, lead organizer for the Hawaiʻi Safe Routes coalition, said many roadways are not safe for pedestrians and cyclists, with U.S. road-related fatalities rising about 10% over the last decade.

Johnson pointed to Senate Bill 1506 as a measure they would like to see move forward.

"The idea behind 1506 is to create not just a pot of money, but a committee of stakeholders beyond just the people that pour the concrete, but people that have a role in mobility," Johnson said. With state departments and community organizations, Johnson said they'd all have a "voice in how we define solutions, and how we hold the city and the state accountable for meeting those goals."

Other safe-streets related bills include Senate Bill 1535, which would allow the state director of transportation to exempt certain grounds from transportation facility projects; House Bill 415 would enact a statewide mobility management task force; and House Bill 600 would establish a "safe routes to school" advisory committee within the planning branch of the highways division of the Department of Transportation.

Sabrina Bodon was Hawaiʻi Public Radio's government reporter.
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