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Friday, July 6, 2007

Rainier Ave and 42nd Ave S

posted by on July 6 at 12:35 PM


By Rebecca Tapscott

South Seattle

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.

RSS icon Comments


What about accidents involving people looking at the graphc billboard and not the road?

Posted by Sasha | July 6, 2007 1:10 PM

That stretch of road is basically a freeway that ends in a stoplight. The accident rate isn't suprising, there isn't many roads like in the area.

Posted by Dougsf | July 6, 2007 1:26 PM

Call me a billboard skeptic (more government-by-marketing there). I think the intersection cameras are the way to go. But the real way to moderate traffic on the street is to increase moderate uses: more street parking, more people in or near the street, maybe some roadway narrowing. What affect is Sound Transit going to have on clogging up the action a little (see, sometimes traffic is a good thing).

Posted by Fnarf | July 6, 2007 1:33 PM

The road is basically 4 lanes and a turning lane. I'm thinking two lanes, a turning lane and two bicycle lanes. Smaller roads make people move slower. The added bicycle lanes open up the sides of the road for better visibility of bicycles and pedestrians.

Posted by mattro2.0 | July 6, 2007 1:52 PM

You don't need to take away lanes. You just need to add streetside parking, and force landowners to build out to the street. Visually now Rainier looks like an expressway for most of its length, because there's nothing near it. I mean, look at some of those intersections on Google Maps -- there's enough waste ground at Rainier and Graham to play four or five games of football.

If you took away lanes, you'd have to fill it with something, and you might end up with something as soul-deadening as Beacon. Say no to landscaped meridians!

Posted by Fnarf | July 6, 2007 2:13 PM

Whatchoutalkingbout Fnarf?

The meridian on Beacon is not just some piece of landscaping - it has a paved path running through it for "soul-deading" activities such as walking and biking.

What Rainer Ave needs is radar detectors (and the cops to operate them) - not billboard reminders.

Posted by Mushmouth | July 6, 2007 2:51 PM

"Hirakawa also emphasized the ROLL of driver and pedestrian alertness, saying,
- did Britney write this? Roll?

Posted by britfan | July 6, 2007 3:16 PM

Full Disclosure: I ride rainier. I want a bike lane. I've been close to being hit too many times, so I use the sidewalk (shout out to my rims)

Posted by mattro2.0 | July 6, 2007 3:46 PM

What a fabulous idea! Rainier Avenue has become a dangerous roadway in recent years. The billboards are a great idea and will remind drivers how devastating a car accident can be. I’ve seen photographs of accidents occurring at speeds as low as 25-35 mph where the damage is fairly substantial. In one case I handled, the speed was only 25 mph, but the impact caused my client’s car to roll over onto its hood. She later developed a herniated disc in her low back and she’s had ongoing problems ever since. I think SDOT’s billboard idea should also be copied by WDOT so that many more of the billboards can be seen on our state highways and those roadways that are fairly congested.

Posted by Chris Davis, Attorney At Law | July 6, 2007 5:32 PM

I live on Beacon Hill, overlooking the valley, and have lived there for seven years. I can tell you that the problem is morons: Those in the cars (many of whom I suspect don't have licenses) and the morons on foot, who think it's simply a wonderful idea to wander out into traffic, especially at night, and especially when wearing dark clothing.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | July 6, 2007 9:36 PM

The city has preliminary plans to put Rainier on a "road diet" between Rainier Beach and Alaska. This will include restriping the roadway to one lane in each direction and a center turn lane, among other things. Bikes will be served by sharrows - as I understand it there is not enough space for bike lanes.

Posted by wrenn | July 6, 2007 10:55 PM

"catalina vel-duray" hit the nail on the head! The problem is complete idiots behind the wheel and running across the road. I've had out of town visitors remark at how "strange" the traffic is on Rainier. Most of these idiots are immigrants, whether you like to admit it or not, and they have absolutely zero Western "street sense." I am willing to bet that most of the accidents are speed/alochol-related at night (when Rainier is for the most part empty) and during the daytime it is merely frustrated drivers trying to maneuver around aforementioned "idiots." I live in Seward Park, and I now routinely take LW Blvd and Massachusetts to get to downtown/I-90. It might not be faster, but it is prettier, separates the riff raff from the sane, logical, skilled drivers (me), and it keeps my blood pressure down...

Posted by Daryl Z | July 18, 2007 9:09 PM

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