The Berkeley Police Department announced Tuesday it will focus on pedestrian safety in March in honor of Zachary Michael Cruz, who was killed in a collision while walking to an after-school program Feb. 27, 2009.
A kindergartner at LeConte Elementary School, Zachary would have turned seven March 12.
The fatal accident, which was caused by a welder’s truck at the crossing of Warring and Derby streets, put a spotlight on traffic safety issues in the Berkeley public schools. Zachary was on his way to an after-school program at the Clark Kerr campus.
Although police did not arrest the driver of the truck for the accident, Zachary’s parents, Frank and Jody Cruz, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court in August against the Berkeley Unified School District, the University of California regents; truck driver John William Martin Sr., and his employer, Ferguson Welding Service in Hayward; school-bus driver Zakiya Green and after-school program employee Zayda Arevalo.
Cruz’s lawyer Andrew Schwartz told the Daily Planet that Berkeley police concluded their investigation without making a recommendation for criminal prosecution. He said that the case had been forwarded to the district attorney’s office.
Zachary’s death also led to the launch of a campaign by the Berkeley Unified School District and the Alameda County Safe Routes to School Program.
A $900,000 CalTrans Safe Routes to School grant to the city of Berkeley for traffic improvements at four Berkeley public elementary schools last fall will ensure that two flashing beacons are installed at Ashby Avenue at Ellis Street to alert drivers and pedestrians. The intersection has been the site of numerous accidents and traffic hazards.
A press release from the Berkeley Police Department said officers will concentrate on violations that place pedestrians at risk, especially dangerous driving behavior such as speeding, cell phone use and pedestrian right-of-way violations. The department will also provide additional training to officers which will help them spot problematic driving habits.
Last year, 106 pedestrians were injured in collisions in Berkeley. All three of the city's fatal collisions in 2009 involved pedestrians in crosswalks.
The Office of Traffic Safety currently ranks Berkeley highest in terms of the number of pedestrian injury collisions among similarly sized cities in California, said Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan. "Our focus on pedestrian safety is an appropriate way to remember Zachary and to do our part to make this community safer," said Meehan, who has two young children.