Neeti Chokshi was crossing the street with her one-year-old dog on an evening in January when a car blew through the intersection and struck them. The next thing she remembers is seeing Donut trapped beneath the car that hit them.
“My puppy Donut did not live to see his second birthday,” said Chokshi, who was rushed to the hospital with a severely broken arm.
Chokshi shared her story at a press conference Sunday to remember those who were killed on the streets of San Francisco and to urge the public to refer traffic collisions as crashes rather than accidents. She joined other survivors, advocates and the families and friends of those who died in traffic collisions.
“We will no longer accept deaths and serious injuries on our streets,” said Cathy DeLuca of Walk SF. “They are preventable, they are not accidents.”
Walk SF and San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets organized the event at the Koret Auditorium of the Main Library to observe World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. DeLuca said 40,000 people die in traffic collisions a year in the U.S., while 4.5 million are injured.
Despite efforts under the Vision Zero program to end traffic deaths altogether, 21 pedestrians, cyclists and others have died in San Francisco so far this year.
Among those in attendance were Assemblymember David Chiu, Supervisor Norman Yee and Supervisor Rafael Mandelman. Last year, Chiu introduced a bill to pilot an automated speed enforcement program to install fixed speed cameras in San Francisco and San Jose. But the bill did not pass in the legislature.
“We know that speed kills and that having automated speed enforcement on our streets can save lives,” Chiu said. “We are going to be working with advocates to assess whether we can get this through but make no mistake we are all committed to doing everything we can do to end the violence on the streets.”
Yee, who represents District 7 on the Board of Supervisors, said not only was his grandfather fatally struck by a car before he was born but he himself almost died in a traffic collision 12 years ago.
“It’s not just about the victim but it’s also the families that get impacted,” Yee said. “It was my wife had to take off work, my kids have to come to the hospital for six months, after that they have to nurse me to health for six months.”
Estelle Oloresisimo, an active member of the Filipino community in San Francisco, said her 80-year-old friend, Candida Duazo, was killed by a driver while crossing Ocean Avenue in April.
Oloresisimo remembered Duazo as a community leader who donated to causes and had a passion for music. She drew attention to the issue of senior citizens being more likely to be struck by cars than others.
“This problem is getting worse every day,” said Oloresisimo, whose teenaged daughter died in a train crash outside Manila in the late 1990’s.
In a statement, Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, called for the redesign of city streets to increase visibility and protection for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers as well as the improvement of traffic enforcement efforts.
“Far too many people are being injured disabled and killed for absolutely no reason,” Wiener said. “We need the political will to make this happen.”