The intersection of Rainier Avenue South and Bayview Street had the most vehicle-pedestrian collisions in 2013. Credit: Bill Lucia
Jourdan Keith had just left work. She was crossing Rainier Avenue at South Edmonds Street in Columbia City, heading for the bus stop. It was about five o'clock on a November evening.
"Suddenly," said Keith, "I was on the hood of the car and on the ground. It happened really fast."
The driver had run a red light. The car struck the inside of Keith's right leg, cracking a bone below her knee and damaging ligaments around her ankle. Her foot got caught and dragged under the car's front end. She remembers looking down and seeing a hole scraped into the side of her shoe.
The incident happened in 2011, but the effects of her injuries linger. Keith (left) is the founder and director of the Urban Wilderness Project, a Seattle-based nonprofit, which runs outdoor and environmental restoration programs, including backpacking trips to the North Cascades. She has not led a trip since that November evening. "I can't carry a 50 pound backpack right now," she said.
There are also ongoing medical bills, which can still amount to about $200 each month; the muscle loss and weight gain she experienced while her leg was in a brace; the strain that the recovery process put on her spouse and co-workers; and the fear she still battles whenever she crosses a street. "It's just been a lot of time trying to recover physically and financially and emotionally," said Keith.
Vehicles hit 415 pedestrians on Seattle's streets in 2013, according to data from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). That number has remained relatively consistent in recent years — 487 in 2012 and 398 in 2011.
Most victims are not killed or badly hurt. But dozens are seriously injured each year.
The most hazardous intersections and streets tend to change from year to year, ranging from bustling downtown corners to major north-south thoroughfares. In late July, a garbage truck struck and killed a woman who was walking near Eighth Avenue and James Street on First Hill.
415 pedestrians were struck by cars or trucks in Seattle in 2013. Green dots indicate one collision. Pink dots show where two incidents occurred; yellow where there were three or four. Source: SDOT. Map: Bill Lucia
The city's average pedestrian fatality rate from 2008 to 2011 was about 1.2 per 100,000 people. Based on that number, walking in Seattle during that time period was safer than strolling through Portland, Oregon, San Francisco and Vancouver, B.C. Among those three cities, San Francisco had the highest pedestrian fatality rate, about 1.9 deaths per 100,000.
These rates reflect a four-year average for 2008-2011 and are based on accident data from local transportation and law enforcement agencies, and 2010 population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau and B.C. Stats. Chart: Bill Lucia
Seattle's City Traffic Engineer Dongho Chang said that Seattle is currently the second safest big city in the nation for pedestrians. "That's something remarkable when you think about what we're seeing in Seattle," said Chang. "We have huge, tremendous growth."
That said, 60 Seattle pedestrians did sustain serious injuries in 2013, according to SDOT statistics. The serious classification refers to injuries bad enough to leave the victim unable to walk or drive after the collision, and includes broken bones, severe cuts and head wounds. Last year's total was in line with the three-year average for 2011-2013 — about 57.
Vehicle-pedestrian collisions that caused serious injuries happened all over the city last year. Three took place on the same two mile stretch of Greenwood Avenue North, which runs between North 90th Street and North 130th Street. Seven people were seriously injured in three collisions along Rainier Avenue. Four were seriously injured when they were struck by vehicles in the five-block section of Third Avenue that runs between University Street and Stewart Street in downtown.
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