By Rich Figel
Yesterday in Kailua, I got busted for speeding -- along with dozens of others who were doing over the 25 mph speed limit on Hamakua Drive, a four-lane major street that goes from Kailua Road to Enchanted Lakes. Before I continue, let me say I agree speeding is a serious problem. But nearly all the fatal accidents involving excessive speed I hear about, occur at night and on highways. So why do police set up speed traps during the day or in spots that aren't considered to be dangerous for pedestrians or drivers?
Well, if you believe the people I spoke to, they think it's because the police have a "quota" to make and it's really about generating easy revenue since most people won't challenge the tickets. All I know is the place where the police chose to set up their radar gun was nowhere near any pedestrian crossing, and was on a section of Hamakua Drive that has a slight incline. Even if you were going 25 mph (which no one does on that stretch) you would naturally press down on the gas pedal just to maintain your speed, and as you reach the top of that incline, it's easy to be doing 35 mph before you saw the cop up ahead, holding the radar gun. I was clocked at 37 mph, which is possible for that brief instant when I was going uphill.
I honestly did not realize the speed limit was 25 mph. There are two-lanes traveling in each direction. Between the Safeway intersection and Keolu Drive, there isn't any cross street. So after I was ticketed, about two hours later I returned with my Flip video camera to observe how many other cars were traveling over 25 mph, and how many the police were pulling over. What bothered me most was the police didn't even see how dangerous it was for me to cross the street from the corner of the Safeway parking lot to the side where Firestone, Down to Earth and some restaurants are located. If anything, THAT is where they should have set up their radar guns because speeding in that area is really a threat to pedestrians -- not to mention cars pulling out of Safeway that must cross two lanes if you're going toward Enchanted Lake... which was my case earlier.
But it doesn't seem that was the police's intent. They weren't doing it to make a safety statement about the dangers to pedestrians if you speed in certain areas or at certain times, when drivers should be alert to more foot traffic on busy roads. The Kailua speed trap took a tag team approach. While one cop wrote up the ticket, the other held the radar gun and waved alleged speed violators over to the side. However, since virtually every car I saw was going over 25 mph, there were times when both cops were busy writing tickets while some speeders got a free pass.
As I continued recording their actions on video, it also became apparent that police do NOT ticket every car that is going over the speed limit. I'm not sure if it was because they got hand cramps from writing so many citations, or if they were being more lenient because they saw that I was recording them on video. Even though I didn't have a radar gun, it's fairly obvious when someone is going over the limit -- they immediately hit the brakes and slowed down substantially as soon as they saw the police up ahead or the cars that were pulled over by them. So how much leeway do individual police have, or is it arbitrary who they let slide and who they wave over?
What irks me is if you do drive the posted 25 mph limit on a major thoroughfare like Hamakua Drive, you will have people either tailgating you or passing you left and right, which is even more dangerous if those drivers are weaving in and out of traffic. Going 5 to 10 mph over the limit to maintain a steady traffic flow doesn't seem like it should warrant a traffic ticket, unless it is an area where there are pedestrians or cross streets. Can you imagine what would happen if police decided to strictly enforce the exact speed limit on the Pali Highway, Likelike, H-1, H-2 or H-3? Sheesh.
But the real issue is what good are these daytime speed traps on residential streets, when the most serious traffic accidents almost always happen late at night or in the wee hours of the morning when drunks and younger drivers are most likely to be doing 70 to 80 mph on major highways.
Speaking of highways, I'm surprised that the media hasn't followed up on the StreetVac road pollution filter story we're currently airing on this month's Career Changers TV show. Jeff Krantz, who owns SeaBreeze Watersports in Hawaii Kai (his wife, Courtney, runs the day-to-day operations) invented a low cost filter that is easily installed in car wheel wells. The filters trap metal particles and other pollutants created by cars that normally wind up in the air or run off into the water system when it rains. He offered to do a test pilot program using State vehicles at NO COST... and the DOT turned him down without showing much interest.
Meanwhile, he and Mark Bell -- an inventor who is helping market StreetVac -- have been able to get support from government leaders in other countries to implement test programs because the patented filters could greatly reduce air and water pollution. You can see the video by clicking here. For daily viewing times of the current Career Changers TV episode, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV.