With vehicles growing ever larger and traffic going faster, it is no surprise that car-pedestrian and car-bicycle crashes can be deadly. In fact, SDOT has a “Vision Zero” plan in place that is meant to reduce all types of traffic injuries and deaths to zero by 2030.
How is it going? Unfortunately, Seattle’s traffic deaths have actually increased overall since 2018.
Pedestrian- and cyclist-involved car accidents play an outsize role in that. According to SDOT’s most recent “Vision Zero” review, pedestrians and cyclists are only involved in about 7% of all traffic crashes. But they account for 61% of all fatal crashes.
Thirty-five percent of all pedestrian-involved collisions occur when the car turns at an intersection. Clearly, changing driver behavior at intersections could substantially reduce pedestrian deaths.
One way to do that is to implement a “no turn on red” rule. That would stop many drivers from turning while pedestrians are expecting a free path across the street. SDOT has done so in the downtown area for the summer, according to KING 5 News.
What else can be done to address pedestrian and cyclist fatalities?
In general, slowing traffic, increasing the visibility of pedestrians and bikers, and separating pedestrians and cyclists from traffic, where possible, are the three main strategies, when it comes to road design.
The “Vision Zero” plan garnered a $25 million federal grant and $5 million in new state funding. SDOT plans to use that money to add new sidewalks and bike lanes and to add flashing lights at crosswalks.
Yet Seattle has another problem: arterial streets. The SDOT data shows that 93% of pedestrian deaths occurred on wide, straight roads like Rainier Avenue south, which saw 139 crashes last year.
“Multi-lane roads with high speeds are where we see the majority of our fatal and serious injury collisions,” SDOT said in a statement. “We are continuing to look at methods to reduce speeds and are looking for ways to reduce the number of lanes on multilane arterial streets in collaboration with the mayor’s office.”
Roads can be designed to calm traffic, but that doesn’t absolve bad drivers
There are simply far too many traffic deaths occurring on Seattle’s streets. All parties can play a role in preventing crashes, but drivers need to be particularly aware of their surroundings and the people in them.