The city of Chicago is set to pay $3.25 million to the family of a 4-year-old girl fatally struck by a car near Lincoln Park Zoo in a case that became a rallying point for traffic safety advocates.
Maya Hirsch was crossing the street in May 2006 when a car struck her, her mother and 5-year-old brother. David Roth, the 57-year-old motorist, drove off even as witnesses shouted at him to stop. Roth said he did not see a stop sign or other traffic control markings at the intersection of Lincoln Park West and Belden Avenue.
Maya's parents, David Hirsch and Danit Steinbach Hirsch, sued the city, alleging that stop signs and other traffic control markings at the intersection were improperly placed or had deteriorated because of neglect.
Leslie Darling, city assistant corporation counsel, told aldermen Monday that the stop sign at the location was at least 2 inches shorter than the 7-foot height required by city statute. In addition, the crosswalk had not been painted for six years before the accident, "and photographs taken as part of the police investigation showed the markings were indeed faded," she said.
A no-parking zone began closer to the stop sign than statute allows, Darling said. Two days after Maya was killed, city crews repainted crosswalk and roadway markings and installed new traffic signs at the intersection.
The City Council Finance Committee recommended approval of the settlement, and the full council will consider the matter Wednesday.
The public outpouring of grief over Maya's death was followed by renewed scrutiny on the slow pace of improving pedestrian safety in Chicago. In 2010, 32 pedestrians were killed and about 3,000 were injured in vehicle-related accidents in the city, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. The city has announced a goal of reducing pedestrian fatalities to zero by 2020.
Roth died in prison in 2008 while serving an eight-year sentence for leaving the scene of an accident.