SDOT: Injurious and fatal crashes remain despite pandemic effect on traffic

It has been just about a month since new street signs of reduced speed limits of 25 miles per hour were installed across most Seattle neighborhoods.

The goal for transportation officials is simple: lowering the speed limit can drastically improve the likelihood a pedestrian survives a collision with a vehicle.

Yet, fatalities on Seattle’s roadways have persisted. Getting to I-5 through Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood usually means slogging through congestion.

"It’s not too bad for the middle of the day," said driver Greg Canote.

He said he rarely has problems taking his time behind the wheel, but admitted other drivers perpetually seem to be in an endless rush.

"In my neighborhood, everybody drives the speed limit," he said.

Lowering the speed limit to 25 mph on most of the city's streets is part of the Seattle Department of Transportation’s effort to achieve ‘Vision Zero.’ That goal aims to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injury crashes on city streets by the year 2030.

RELATED: Seattle installs 2,500 new signs as city lowers speed limit to 25 mph on most major roads

While SDOT says five out of 10 people can survive being struck by cars moving at 30 mph, nine of those 10 would survive if drivers were only going 20 mph.

"To be blunt, some of the data is showing us that things are not trending in the right direction," said SDOT spokesperson Ethan Bergerson.

In late March 2021, a bicyclist died after being struck by a semi-truck in Georgetown. That was not the first fatality on Seattle’s streets this year.

Recently, SDOT completed phased work to improve safety along Rainier Avenue South, including designs to slow drivers down and offering pedestrians crossing streets a head-start on a green light.

In the Georgetown neighborhood, SDOT is also installing speed bumps on side streets as commuters search for alternatives around the West Seattle Bridge’s closure.

Data compiled by Seattle Municipal Court shows people issued citations by Seattle police are down significantly this year and last. But, that is likely due to the pandemic’s alteration of traffic patterns.

While reducing speeds and signage can make a difference in reducing collisions, SDOT says it is the driver who has to remain vigilant when behind the wheel.  

"It’s really easy to creep up on residential streets," said Canote.

Construction projects across the city are underway by SDOT to improve mobility and safety. In Georgetown, a number of improvements have already been deployed.

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