BPD announces plan to use $180,000 grant to improve traffic operations

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Berkeley Police Department announced Wednesday how it plans on using a $180,000 grant awarded to it this summer from the California Office of Traffic Safety, or OTS, to improve traffic safety in Berkeley.

The BPD press release said the grant will be put toward special enforcement and public awareness efforts to help prevent traffic-related injuries and deaths. The funds, similar to grants that BPD has received from OTS in previous years, will be put to use starting this month.

In 2012, the most recent year from which OTS has data available, there were 654 fatalities and injuries from collisions in the city of Berkeley. Of those, 151 involved bicycle collisions, and 112 involved pedestrian injuries and fatalities. When compared with 56 similarly sized cities, Berkeley is ranked by OTS at No. 1 for injury collisions involving both pedestrians and bicyclists.

“Many people in Berkeley rely on methods of transportation like walking, cycling and using mass transit, and we also have a lot of vehicles in our city,” said BPD Sgt. Emily Murphy, who oversees the BPD Traffic Bureau. “The combination of all those things is what leads to collisions.”

The OTS grant money will help fund BPD traffic-safety operations, such as DUI checkpoints, DUI saturation patrols, distracted-driving operations, motorcycle-safety enforcement and educational traffic-safety presentations. The grant also enables BPD to participate in national and statewide programs, such as Click It or Ticket, a seatbelt-enforcement campaign.

Murphy said BPD uses data to determine where to organize enforcement operations.

“We look at the statistics for the city, we look where there’s the most collisions involving injury or serious injury, and then we go and we do enforcement and education in that area,” she said.

Tuesday’s press release said the growing dangers of distracting technologies and drug-impaired driving have contributed to recent increases in pedestrian and bicycle fatalities in Berkeley. The city has some of the highest bicycle-usage and pedestrian rates in Alameda County, according to 2013 census data.

Murphy also explained that the grant money allows patrol and motor officers the flexibility to address the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists outside their normally scheduled hours.

“The goals of the 2016 OTS grant is to continue our efforts to reduce the number of citizens injured in collisions whether they choose to walk, drive, bike, or ride a motorcycle in our city,” Murphy said in an email.

Contact Maya Eliahou at [email protected].