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Don't let a car crash turn your dream vacation into a nightmare

You've scrimped and saved and patiently planned, and it's finally here! Time for your dream vacation to Hawai'i! You've packed your bags, purchased your plane tickets and you've got your travel guide handy; but is there something you're forgetting?

Nothing can ruin your trip to Hawai'i like a serious car wreck. While many of the tenets of responsible driving -- wear your seat belt, don't drink and drive -- are common sense tips that apply anywhere and anytime, there are some traffic safety guidelines that are particular to Hawai'i. So how can you keep you and your loved ones safe on your island trip?

Traffic tips for Hawaii

Since you can't exactly drive to Hawaii, you'll probably rent a car, which can add an additional element of unfamiliarity, so chances are you'll already be taking things extra slowly and carefully. You're familiar with general driving rules like following the speed limit and refraining from phone use of any kind behind the wheel, but there are some additional traffic safety suggestions, specific to Hawaii, that you may find useful, including:

  • Plan your route in advance so you can avoid speeding
  • Don't make U-turns
  • Avoid Hawaii's rush hours
  • Keep tabs on weather and flood advisories
  • Try not to pull your vehicle onto the road shoulder

You may be surprised at the increased travel time on winding Hawaii roads; you'll want to determine your route in advance to allow for plenty of travel time, to avoid feeling the urge to exceed the speed limit. Speeding is a notable problem in Hawaii and a contributing factor in many motor vehicle accidents, so police aren't shy about handing out pricey tickets. Planning can also help you avoid making U-turns, which, though tempting — scenic photo opportunities abound on the islands — are always dangerous no matter where you are.

While preparing, you'll also want to plan to avoid peak traffic times, which may be different than those you're used to; for example, on Honolulu, rush hour in the morning is from approximately 6 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., and in the evening, starts as early as 3:30 pm. You'll also want to check weather advisories, as rain can make for slick, slippery roads, decreased visibility and flooding. This last point can be crucial, as inclement weather makes the already soft road shoulders even easier in which to become stuck.

Other handy hints

When it comes to planning routes and asking for directions, you'll want to memorize the meanings of two commonly used Hawaiian terms: "mauka," which means "toward the mountain" and "makai," meaning "toward the ocean." Locals often use these expressions, in addition to landmarks and mile posts, when giving directions, rather than more common methods like street names.

Speaking of locals, even though most of them know that it's dangerous to cross the highway anywhere other than a crosswalk, you'll still want to be extra watchful for pedestrians, as the beauty of Hawaii lends itself to long, distracted walks and people may forget to watch for traffic. Of course, other drivers aren't immune to distractions, either, and if you are seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by someone else despite your careful driving strategies, there are professional resources in Honolulu with experience in helping tourists and island visitors.

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