Seattle Road Safety Overview: What You Need To Know

Seattle Road Safety Overview: What You Need To Know

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Seattle streets are among the safest in the country. It was also ranked one of the top ten safest cities for pedestrians. However, there are still over 10,000 accidents every year. On average, Seattle has 180 serious injuries and 28 fatalities in traffic accidents per year.

Here’s an overview of Seattle road safety and current initiatives to reduce accidents. And if you do find yourself injured after a car accident in Seattle, reach out to an experienced personal injury lawyer for help.

Traffic Accident Statistics for Seattle, Washington

In 2021, there were 6,100 citywide traffic accidents in Seattle. According to the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), that’s down 32% from 2019. Crash statistics for 2020 are disregarded as that year is an outlier due to COVID-19.

These accidents included 30 fatal crashes and 191 accidents involving serious injury. There were 31 traffic deaths, including 20 pedestrians, 4 bicyclists, and 3 motorcyclists. Fatal and serious accidents were up 11% from 2019.

While total crashes were lower than they have been in at least 15 years, 2021 was Seattle’s deadliest year for traffic accidents since 2006. Many of the fatal accidents involved pedestrians. 2021 saw 80 serious or fatal pedestrian accidents and 19 serious or fatal bicycle accidents.

In 2022, 93% of pedestrian fatalities occurred on long, straight, and wide arterial streets. Accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists accounted for 7% of crashes but 61% of deadly collisions.

SDOT statistics do not include crashes on limited-access state highways and interstates, including I-5, I-90, and SR-520. Including state and county roads, there were 8,006 accidents in Seattle. There were nearly 3,600 crashes on I-5, I-90, and SR-520, including 18 fatal and 58 serious injury accidents.

Common Causes of Seattle Motor Vehicle Accidents

According to SDOT, the most common contributing factors in Seattle accidents included:

  • Did not grant right of way to vehicle (817 crashes, 2 fatal)
  • Improper turn (376, 2 fatal)
  • Following too closely (335)
  • Speeding (295)
  • Disregarded traffic signal or sign (274, 1 fatal)
  • Did not grant right of way to pedestrian (161, 1 fatal)
  • Driver distraction outside vehicle (76, 1 fatal)
  • Improper passing (73)
  • Apparently asleep (59)
  • Improper U-turn (50)

According to WSDOT, there were 1,607 total distracted driving accidents in Seattle in 2021. This includes 10 fatal accidents and 52 with serious injuries. Alcohol was a factor in 517 crashes, including 7 fatal and 26 serious injury crashes.

Seattle Road Safety Initiatives

Vision Zero is Seattle’s initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030. This ambitious program includes projects such as:

  • Public awareness programs
  • Neighborhood Greenways program to reduce car volume and speed on residential roads
  • Protected bike lanes
  • Safe Routes to School program
  • Bike and Pedestrian Safety Analysis (BPSA), part of the Seattle Bicycle Master Plan (BMP) to expand and improve safe bicycle infrastructure
  • Speed limit reduction to 25 mph on arterial streets
  • Prioritized road and intersection improvements
  • Additional “no turn on red” signs at priority downtown intersections, which can reduce pedestrian accidents by more than 90%

The Vision Zero program recently secured a $25.6 million Safe Streets and Roads for All grant. It will be used to roll out additional safety improvements in underserved communities. An additional $5.1 million in local funding will be used to build or improve:

  • Protected bike lanes
  • ADA-accessible curb ramps
  • New sidewalks
  • Crossings

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has its own Target Zero plan as well. Their efforts are focused on reducing serious highway accidents. It’s part of the state Strategic Highway Safety Plan required by the Federal Highway Administration.

The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) has a VISION 2050 plan focused on regional traffic safety. Their policy is a collaborative approach that complements local safety plans like Seattle’s Vision Zero.

Stay Safe on the Road in Seattle, Washington

Despite significant efforts to improve road safety, traffic accidents are still one of the leading causes of accidental death and serious injury in Seattle. Pedestrians are at the highest risk on city streets. Motorists are at the greatest risk on I-5, Washington’s deadliest highway, and I-90. These two stretches of highway had 65 fatal accidents in 2022 alone.

Whether you’re driving, walking, or cycling in the city, make sure you avoid distractions and speeding, especially in hotspots for crashes.


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