View Our Practice Areas

Seattle’s geography poses unique road safety concerns

People driving in Seattle should be aware of which areas are at risk of flooding and landslides and how to report these safety concerns.

Most people know that Seattle is almost constantly pelted by rain, but how much of a risk is the city's climate for traffic safety? Rainy weather reduces the friction on streets, increasing stopping distances, and when rain is heavy, visibility can be poor. However, it is not just rain that people have to look out for. The positioning of some of Seattle's coastal neighborhoods can actually put areas at risk for landslides, the likelihood of which increases with more heavy rainfall. Anyone driving through the city, whether they are locals or just passing through, should be aware of which areas are at greater risk and how to identify and report problems that could potentially lead to motor vehicle accidents.

Identifying problem areas

The current construction laws in Seattle prohibit building structures around steep slopes and right by steep river banks, but these laws were not in effect when some of the older neighborhoods were built. Perkins Lane is an area that was built before the 1930's which is situated along some steep coastal bluffs, and it has seen multiple landslides since its inception. Despite whole chunks of the neighborhood sloughing off and floating down the Puget Sound in recent history, people are still living in the area today.

The risks posed by geology in the area

Landslides in the Perkins Lane area have happened at a sometimes glacial pace, while at other times several meters of land can move at once. In either case, homes and roadways are at risk of destruction. While modern history has not seen a landslide of catastrophic proportions hit the area yet, light and radar imaging technology has revealed that major movements of earth have happened before. The geology of these coastal spots puts them at high risk, as there is a base of clay topped with glacial till and then sand. It makes for iffy terrain for building roads and houses on, and poses a risk for people to end up injured.

Reporting and addressing traffic safety concerns

The State government is well aware of the potential for safety hazards, particularly with the unique issues posed by certain neighborhoods. Flooding and downed vegetation are also issues that King County has put systems in place to deal with. The County has implemented maintenance crews which are geared up to respond to flooding in times of heavy rainfall. Where more work needs to be done, barricades can be put up to restrict traffic through the problem area. Year-round, people can call the King County 24/7 Road Helpline to report flooding, landslides and other obstructions to the safe flow of traffic.

If anyone in Washington has been involved in a car accident due to environmental dangers, it may seem like there is no way to get compensation for the pain and suffering and expensive medical fees that can ensue. However, an attorney in the local area who practices motor vehicle accident law may be able to help in situations like these.