Public Comment

Commentary: Resolve to Drive Safely in the New Year

By Laurie Capitelli
Friday January 04, 2008

Sadly, we are entering the New Year, carrying the burden of yet another pedestrian fatality in the Thousand Oaks neighborhood. On Monday, December 31, during the late morning, a pedestrian walking northbound on Colusa, crossing Marin, was hit and fatally injured by a vehicle going southbound on Colusa and turning left onto Marin. All parties were obeying the traffic signal. The driver contends the sun, shining directly into her eyes, prevented her from seeing the pedestrian as she completed her turn. My condolences go to the family who shouldn’t have had to face this unexpected and senseless loss. My sympathy goes out the driver who will have to bear this burden the rest of her life.  

After three years in the District 5 Council office, I can truthfully say that the number one constituent complaint is about traffic: too much, too fast, too careless. The outcry has been especially strong this holiday season. Many neighborhood residents feel under siege and appeal to the City for some relief in the form of speed bumps, crosswalks, stop signs, traffic circles—anything to force drivers to SLOW DOWN and PAY ATTENTION. BE RESPONSIBLE for residents playing near or walking across the street.  

I actually don’t think the answer is always a tangible change to the streetscape. What we do need to change right now is the culture of driving in Berkeley: to be able to expect that all of us will slow down, pay attention and be responsible. Whether we do it through a public relations program or targeted enforcement, we each need to take individual responsibility to drive safely.  

I challenge each and every one of us who live and drive in Berkeley to consider the pedestrian you approach as if they were the loved one of someone you know. Care about them. They are, most likely, your neighbor.  

So as we sift through and prioritize our New Year’s resolutions in this first week of 2008, may I suggest the following for all of us who walk and/or drive a car: 

1. Never drive faster than the posted speed limit. 

2. When you see a pedestrian in or approaching a crosswalk, stop for them. Take a deep breath and relax. 

3. If the sun is in your eyes and you cannot see, pull over for a few moments, stop, or take a different route. 

4. If you are insistent about using a phone while driving, use a hands-free device.  

5. If a car in front of you stops at a crosswalk, STOP! Do not try to pass them. 

6. Prioritize pedestrian safety above parking when considering a traffic control or traffic safety feature for your neighborhood. 

7. Do not park illegally ever, even if you hear yourself say, “It’s only for a minute or two.” 

8. Be especially attentive and careful around schools during drop-off times. 

9. Always use a crosswalk or appropriate corner when crossing a street. 

10. Teach your children to be alert to traffic, to obey pedestrian and traffic laws. 

Of course, many of these resolutions are already state law. That may be as good as any a place to start.