HERE IN HAWAII – Driving Local


Driving Local

          Driving on the Big Island takes a little getting used to.  You can go up to 55 on only a few highway stretches; almost everywhere the limit is 45 or less.  Passing lanes are rare; and off the highways, most roads are skinny, with narrow shoulders.

          You may be surprised at other drivers’ courtesy: many will wait to let you make a left turn in front of them.  And at their informality: some people drive barefoot, or in zoris (“flip-flop” sandals).  To the delight of car-renters, the nearest gas station to the Hilo Airport – aptly, the Aloha brand – is also among the least expensive.

          At the urging of astronomers to minimize the island’s nighttime glow, streetlights use low-pressure sodium lamps that have a yellowish color, similar to the “caution” light in a red/yellow/green traffic signal.  That unfamiliar hue may be disconcerting, but it’s easy to see by, especially in the rain.

          Unlike houses, car roofs don’t have overhangs.  So a lot of drivers here get “rain-guards” installed.  They’re rigid strips of transparent plastic that are fastened to the top edge of the car door’s windows; so you can keep the glass rolled down an inch or so yet stay dry when it’s pouring outside, or cool the inside temp a bit when you have to park and lock in the sun.   (Makes you wonder why they aren’t standard equipment. But they’re available online from WeatherTech (, which catalogs them as “side window deflectors.”)

Rain Guards <Auto Rain Guard>

          Whenever you’re driving, though, please be alert.  Remember that motorcyclists here are not required to wear helmets; and that nearly all Big Island police cars are unmarked.

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