Vision Zero for Hawai‘i Island

Feb 6, 2019

Credit Casey Harlow

Hawaiʻi County Mayor Harry Kim has set up a task force to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries on the island.  With 32 traffic fatalities in 2018, and two so far this year, Hawaiʻi County has the highest per capita death rate from car crashes in the state. And another 1,200 people have suffered serious injuries. 

Tina Clothier runs PATH, Peoples Advocacy Trails Hawai‘i. She says the task force grew out of an earlier effort to build safe bike and walking paths. The concept of Vision Zero was initiated in Sweden in 1997, to eliminate traffic deaths, and it’s been spreading.

“There’s 30 cities across the nation that have initiated Vision Zero. New York City is five years into their Vision Zero plan, and in 2018 recorded their lowest number of fatalities since they started tracking roadway fatalities in 1910. They feel these policies and procedures and infrastructure improvements have made a difference in lowering the number of traffic fatalities.”

Clothier says Hawaiʻi County Planning Director Michael Yee visited Portland in early 2018, and was introduced to their Vision Zero Plan.

“Michael came with such passion for the initiative that people took notice. He’s been the champion of this process. It recognizes people are human, they’ll make mistakes. We need to design our roads so those mistakes do not result in fatalities and serious injury.”

The Task Force will include county and state agencies, plus local nonprofit agencies and businesses – with an initial meeting February 20th.  An early focus: understanding the problem.

“We are sorely lacking timely data, finding out where the deaths were, where the crashes were.  One of the key components is, accurate and timely data collection and sharing of data.