Chicago family walks for girl killed at crosswalk

September 26, 2010 (WASHINGTON) The death of Maya Hirsch created a new awareness of crosswalk safety, and there's now a new law in Illinois that mandates drivers stop for pedestrians.

Thee city of Chicago is using that law to crack down at crosswalks, and Maya's family is channeling their pain to make a difference.

The new crosswalk law requires drivers to stop, not just yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. The new safety rule brings some comfort to the family of Maya Hirsch but, unfortunately, cannot lessen their pain.

That's the reason they once again walked in her honor and called for more to be done to protect pedestrians from careless drivers.

Renee Hirsch and Elaine Balaban made a plea for the granddaughter they lost as they once again walked for Maya.

"When we are old and can't continue here, our grandchildren will continue this tradition to honor Maya and remember Maya throughout the generations," said Elaine Balaban, Maya's grandmother.

For a another year, family, friends, and the concerned stepped through the gardens of Lincoln Park for the 4th annual Walk to Honor Maya Hirsch, the little girl tragically lost when a driver ignored a stop sign.

Sunday, her father spoke publically for the first time about losing his child.

"It's hard to be here, and it's something that, Maya was a very complex little girl, so for me to remember her exclusively through the way she died has been hard," father David Hirsch said.

Maya was just two months past her fourth birthday when she was killed in 2006 as she crossed the street with her mother and brother. The family had just spent a day at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

A year later, Michael Roth pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a fatal accident and was sentenced to eight years in prison, where he later died.

Even before then, someone has kept a vigil at the intersection where it happened.

"It's fresh flowers for four years, and we don't know who did it, but it's there all the time. So, someone, a complete stranger, doesn't forget," said Mort Balaban, Maya's grandfather.

One Chicago police officer says he doesn't forget either. Officer Steve Shoup responded to calls for help that May 20th. On most days, the 34-year department veteran parks his squad at Belden and Lincoln Park West waiting for a motorist to blow through the intersection. But before he hands them a ticket, he attaches a sticker with Maya's picture on it to the ticket.

"There's no where that you have to go to that fast that you can't stop or yield to a pedestrian," said Shoup.

Sunday morning's remembrance comes as a new crosswalk law in Illinois requiring drivers to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks goes into effect.

Still, those who love Maya want more done.

"Right now, most people will say they didn't know that was a law. So, unfortunately, until that happens, there will still continue to be deaths," said Renee Hirsch, Maya's grandmother.

The family says they will now begin an effort to get broadcast stations in Chicago to run public service announcements about crosswalk safety.

Funds raised at Sunday's walk will benefit the Children's Memorial Hospital Heartlight Bereavement program, which supports those who've lost children and loved ones.

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