By Rebecca Tapscott
In national surveys, Seattle has consistently been ranked with the lowest rate of pedestrian-motorist collisions per capita among major metropolitan U.S. cities.
However, we’ve still got our share of reckless driving. Rainier Avenue—four to five lanes, 8-miles long, and a straight shot—saw 1,743 collisions between 2002 and 2004, and subsequently has been designated a “high collision street” by the City. The only other Seattle road that compares statistically for collisions, according to Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Spokesman, Gregg Hirakawa, is Aurora, a likely location for a future safety project.
SDOT has received a grant for $126,000, for a traffic safety campaign along Rainer Avenue.
There are four different versions of this billboard, which will be placed at different intersections on Rainier for four weeks each. The project is currently on its third billboard, which is located at the intersection of Rainier Avenue and 42nd Avenue South. The billboards aim to keep the message simple, counseling drivers to “slow down” with an image of the universally understood car wreck.
Although speed has not been identified as the primary reason for crashes on Rainier Avenue, this scared straight tactic may remind drivers to be attentive.
Hirakawa also emphasized the role of driver and pedestrian alertness, saying, “[ SDOT does] not believe there is any such thing as an accident. Motorists involved in negligent or reckless behavior cause [collisions] to happen.” Negligence is constituted by behaviors ranging from conversations in the car or mechanical issues, to alcohol consumption or vehicular homicide. Although vehicular homicide sounds mysterious and thrilling, it describes any collision in which a pedestrian or passenger dies and the driver survives. In such a case, charges are often pressed and the driver can face time in prison, regardless of malicious intent. The three most common types of collisions on Rainier are rear-end, angle and sideswipe. Vehicular homicide is rare.
Prior to the billboard campaign the SDOT took other measures to increase safety, including increased signage, a red light camera on Orcas, pedestrian countdown symbols in five locations, including McClellan and Orcas, and 400 new and more easily legible regulatory signs. These measures are not a part of the current 126,000-dollar campaign.
Since the implementation of the safety measures, there are no new collision statistics for Rainier Avenue. Although this is the first time that Seattle has used billboards to increase road safety, the U.S. Department of Transportation cites similar programs around the country that have resulted in a 25 percent decrease in serious accidents.