Berkeley police awarded $265K grant to improve traffic safety

Zach Ryan/Staff

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Berkeley Police Department was awarded a $265,000 grant last week to help reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries in the city.

The California Office of Traffic Safety, or OTS, awarded the grant to BPD in order to implement a variety of year-long pedestrian safety educational programs for community members, according to a BPD press release. The programs will also inform civilians on how to handle other traffic-related problems such as drunk driving, speeding and accidents at intersections.

“Years of research tell us that enforcement and education work best jointly to combat unsafe driving,” said Rhonda Craft, OTS director, in the press release. “This grant brings both tactics together, with the Office of Traffic Safety and the Berkeley Police Department working in concert to keep the streets and highways safe across Berkeley and the state.”

A motivation behind the implementation of this grant, according to BPD spokesperson Sgt. Andrew Frankel, is the high number of people killed in car collisions every year in Berkeley. Frankel said in 2015, roughly 51 percent of injury collisions involved either pedestrians or bicyclists. He added that in 2013, OTS ranked Berkeley first for injury collisions involving pedestrians or bicyclists out of 56 cities of similar sizes.

Frankel added that both bicyclists and motor vehicle operators are equally responsible for making Berkeley a dangerous city to ride a bicycle in because of the high rate of injury collisions.

“Statistically speaking a vehicle collision is the most likely way you will be seriously injured in the City of Berkeley,” Frankel said in an email. “Doing our best to ensure traffic safety is to (do) our best to ensure public safety.”

With the grant money, BPD will fund DUI checkpoints and distracted driving enforcement among other activities to keep the streets of Berkeley safe, according to the press release.

Former City Council candidate Nanci Armstrong-Temple said while Berkeley is a relatively small city with about 90,000 residents, UC Berkeley has a large student population that is not necessarily familiar with proper safety standards and street behavior in a city landscape, which can contribute to the issue of car collisions.

According to Armstrong-Temple, grant money must be used to educate community members and students on traffic safety and fund the implementation of traffic signals and flashlights at entry points in the city.

“If you accidentally hit someone it might be your dentist’s daughter. It is really important to be accountable to your neighbors in a small town like Berkeley,” Armstrong-Temple said. “We don’t have a culture that (teaches) people who are moving here what kind of town Berkeley is … and I think that that is a place where a lot of education could happen.”

Contact Parth Vohra at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @ParthVohra622.