July 24, 2012 — The family of Maya Hirsch, a 4 year-old who was killed in a crosswalk hit-and-run accident in 2006, has been awarded a $3.25 million settlement with the city of Chicago. The City Council is expected to approve the settlement tomorrow. Advocates for improved pedestrian safety have used this case as an example why Chicago should improve safety for pedestrians. After nearly 40 pedestrians died last year, the city has agreed to try to improve safety.
Maya Hirsch was killed on May 20, 2006 at the intersection outside the Lincoln Park Zoo. Michael Roth, 57, blew through a stop sign in his black Lexus and hit Maya, her mother, and her 6 year-old brother, Ben. Although the mother and brother hit the hood of the car and were only slightly injured, Maya was dragged under the car and killed. Other pedestrians who witnessed the accident yelled after Roth and chased his vehicle, but Roth did not stop.
Witnesses identified Roth’s vanity license plate, “OCEAN 21,” and police were easily able to track Roth to his North Side condo. Roth had multiple traffic tickets and a history of felonies for robbery and aggravated assault. Roth was arrested, convicted of a fatal hit-and-run, sentenced to eight years in prison. He died in prison on April 5, 2008.
The family of Maya Hirsch filed a lawsuit against the city of Chicago, claiming that the accident occurred because the city failed to maintain the crosswalk, placed signs improperly, and failed to replace deteriorated signs. Roth defended himself by claiming that he never saw the stop sign at the intersection.
Police photos showed that the crosswalk lines were faded. They had not been re-painted for six years. Furthermore, the stop sign was two inches shorter than than the 7-foot requirement. A “no parking” sign was also located too close to the stop sign.
The crosswalk was improved within two days after the accident. City crews re-painted the crosswalk with bright white lines, re-painted road markings, re-installed a new stop sign, and fixed the placement of other signs.
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