Car strikes and kills 98-year-old pedestrian in Berkeley

Joseph Luft

Joseph Luft, who died Friday after being struck by a car in Berkeley. Photo: Courtesy of family

A 98-year-old man was struck by a car Friday afternoon while crossing the intersection of Bancroft Way and Sacramento Street. He later died of his injuries.

Berkeley police said the man was struck around 12:23 p.m.

He was conscious and talking when police arrived, but he died at the hospital around 6 p.m., according to Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats.

The Alameda County coroner’s office identified him as Joseph Luft of Berkeley.

The driver is cooperating with police, Coats said in a press release. It does not appear that drugs or alcohol were factors in the collision, she said.

Luft, a psychologist, was the creator of the Johari Window, a technique he and Harry Ingrahm invented in 1955 to help people better understand their relationship with others. He taught at San Francisco State University for more than 20 years.

The Luft family released a statement Saturday stating that Joseph Luft was a World War II veteran, “a proud father of four and beloved local figure,” who had taken a daily walk for more than 50 years.

Joseph Luft was struck by a car while crossing the intersection of Bancroft Way and Sacramento Street in Berkeley. Image: Google Maps

Joseph Luft was struck by a car while crossing the intersection of Bancroft Way and Sacramento Street in Berkeley. Image: Google Maps

“While his death was sudden, he died doing what he loved,” said daughter Rachel Luft, adding that her father turned 98 on Wednesday. “We do not yet know the details of what happened, but our hearts go out to the driver of the car and his family during this difficult time.”

Police are asking anyone who may have witnessed the accident to call the Traffic Bureau at 510-981-5980 or the non-emergency line at 510-981-5900. Anyone who wishes to remain anonymous can call Bay Area Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477).

This story was updated as new information became available.

Driver strikes 3 blind pedestrians and flees (10.25.13)
Pedestrian hospitalized after car crash in Berkeley (09.26.13)
$15,000 reward offered after pedestrian hit-and-run death (07.23.13)
Sign added near site of fatal Berkeley hit-and-run (07.17.13)
Berkeley hit-and-run raises concerns for safety (07.15.13)
Hit-and-run kills pedestrian on Berkeley overpass (07.15.13)
Pedestrian in critical condition after auto accident (05.07.13)

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  • Anon

    The West County Times tweeted a story that says his name is “Luft”.
    (tweet: )

  • Thanks. I thought the coroner’s office officer told me the name was Lust. But I just checked again and I must have misheard. It is Luft.

  • Valerie Herr

    This is such a sad story, both for the walker and the driver. My heart goes out to the family that has been generous to see their loved one’s last promenade as a peaceful end for him. Let’s learn that crossing the road is so often a hazardous business, and lets learn that motor vehicles are dangerous

  • leilah

    I’m so impressed by the heartfelt concern and extended by the daughter of the accident victim to the driver and his family–most generous at a time of one’s own grief, and so uncommon these days.

  • Anthony Noguerra

    Have the police determined whether excessive speed was an issue? Or distracted driving?

  • TN

    There is a signalized intersection at Allston and Sacramento, one block to the north.

  • Erika

    Again and again, pedestrians getting hit on Sacramento Street. Something has got to change with signals or signage. It’s a death trap.

  • Cammy

    I believe you’re right about the aggressive/speeding drivers. Unfortunately a cross walk means very little to most drivers. Even with a light I’ve seen drivers almost hit pedestrians try to cross the street as they turn into them

    I would hope the city would do what El Cerrito recently did on San Pablo Ave and put in the blinking lights. More police activity in the area for speeders might help

    . My condolences to the family.

  • guest

    I can’t tell you how many times I narrowly escape being killed by irresponsible drivers as a pedestrian.

  • FiatSlug

    Return Driver’s Ed to California public high schools. There’s been a gradual yet discernible deterioration in group driving skills since Drivers’ Ed was taken out of California public schools in 1980 (or thereabouts).

    More distracted driving (especially since the introduction of cell phones), less courtesy, less use of turn signals (and yes, it is important), less awareness of others on the road (in addition to distracted driving) and less awareness of vehicle laws.

    Road diets are poor compensation for this fundamental lack of education in driver skills and techniques.knowledge.

  • JohnD

    Wow, if the man was anything like the daughter the world lost a good person. And 98 is a good long life – 50 years of a daily walk might be the ticket! She has faith in the system, and I hope it delivers. Detroit had a recent accident where someone stopped and was nearly killed for it. I think going through a court system is a much better way to resolve these questions if needed.

    These two lane both direction roads are very tricky for crossing bikers / pedestrians. What drove me crazy was one car would stop, but then someone else would fly by, very dangerous when crossing! If one car is stopped in front of a cross walk, an approaching driver should consider that there may be a pedestrian crossing.

  • Susan Priano

    My condolences to Elsie, Leah and Daniel for their loss.

  • lovefelines

    Right you are. I find it a very annoying that it’s red for such a long time, since hardly any traffic runs along Allston during the daytime. I can only think that’s because garbage trucks use Allston during early morning hours. Otherwise, it makes no sense, and perhaps should be moved up to Bancroft, where so many seniors cross.

  • guest

    The advantage of the road diet is that the pedestrian only needs to negotiate with one driver for a safe crossing to the median. This morning, I drove Hopkins to Sacramento to Allston. In the one lane sections of Hopkins and Sacramento, I yielded to pedestrians, and the cars behind me waited. In the two lanes sections, I yielded to pedestrians, and in 100% of the cases the cars behind me changed lanes, and accelerated towards the occupied crosswalk. In some cases, they drove through the occupied crosswalk.

  • guest

    Road injuries and fatalities — including pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers, and passengers — have been declining for at least 20 years. For teens in particular, the end of high school drivers’ ed and the imposition of graduated drivers’ licensing programs have led to a precipitous drop in underage motor vehicle crash deaths.

    Making it harder to get your license has been a clear public policy success. As a side benefit, more young people are choosing to forego driving altogether. Total vehicle miles traveled in the U.S. has actually declined from its peak in 2007, which makes a small contribution to our efforts to mitigate climate change.

    There are a number of really good evidence-based policy reasons for no longer subsidizing the auto industry by offering universal driver training at public expense.

  • guest

    Sacramento is a main artery. Closing one lane would be disastrous.

  • guest

    >…in 100% of the cases the cars behind me…

    60% of the time it happens every time.

  • We should take a serious look at improving safety for pedestrians at this and other Berkeley corners before others are needlessly hurt or killed this summer.

  • This and other road diets are more than called for and will reduce congestion and air pollution as well as public health costs for us all.

  • We should bring up the signal timing to the city engineer for sure. I’m hoping the city reads and uses these comments.

  • We can’t assume that until a traffic study is done. Road diets make sense in most cases and would make a complete street for cyclists and pedestrians, transit. The throughput could actually increase.

  • Rita

    I hope Joe wasn’t in pain after he was struck and before he died. :<(((((

  • supersickandtired

    the person driving the car struck this poor man not the car…if the driver was DUI you wouldn’t say the car killed him you would say the drunk driver struck and killed him.

  • supersickandtired

    Cars stop and go create more pollution not less…car engines are designed to be efficient at a steady speed like freeway or expressway speeds not stop and go through Berkeley all of our so called traffic calming is creating more and more pollution not less…so much for global warming.

  • Charles_Siegel

    People used to believe in the 1950s and the 1960s that freeways would reduce pollution, because cars would drive at a steady speed and create less pollution than stop-and-go traffic.

    But experience has proven that they were wrong: increasing speeds makes people drive longer distances – this is called “induced traffic – and because of all the extra driving, they create more pollution.

    Likewise, traffic calming reduces the distances that people drive and so reduces pollution.

  • rhuberry

    There’s a big wide street one block east — California — that is a bicycle blvd. Why don’t cyclists use that rather than Sacramento? We don’t need 2 bike streets one block apart. No matter what changes you make, there will always be accidents, unfortunately, especially in an ever more densely populated flatlands Berkeley.

  • Martin Tornow

    This is quite tragic. Sounded like the world lost a great man.

    I firmly believe Sacramento should get the “Buchanan Street” treatment which was a good success in calming traffic OR Berkeley needs to install much better signage with blinking crosswalk lights along Sacramento but I don’t know if that’ll be good enough. I routinely cross Sacramento and Virginia to the North Berkeley BART and it’s always a madhouse with drivers trying to zip by. It’s not even the worst intersection on Sacramento–there are many more that are just as bad or worse.

    I hope this is a wake-up call to Berkeley to start improving its crosswalk safety.

  • That would seem true but is not the case. Traffic will actually flow more smoothly.

  • emraguso

    The driver charged with killing a 98-year-old former psychology professor on his daily walk in Berkeley in April had no license and told police he is “legally blind,” according to court papers that became available last week. Our update, just posted, is here: