Three years ago, Adriana was hit and killed in a crosswalk in downtown Seattle. Adriana was one of the 116 Seattle pedestrian deaths in 2017.
She left behind a husband, two young daughters and an extended family, as well as hundreds of heartbroken clients, co-workers and friends at the Seattle Athletic Club where she worked.
Speed was a contributing factor in Adriana’s death. The driver was “running late” for work.
Having represented hundreds of individuals and families of those seriously injured or killed in motor vehicle
accidents crashes*, I have seen firsthand the impact of speed.
Vehicle speed affects the chances of being involved in a serious or fatal collision. But it also governs the severity of the crash – and of the injuries.
Changing the pattern of Seattle pedestrian deaths
By law, Washington State sets the basic speed limits for interstates, highways, county roadways and city streets.
This state law gives considerable latitude to city and county entities, including Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), to increase or reduce speed limits.
According to SDOT, nine of ten pedestrians survive being hit by a car traveling at 20 MPH.
At 40 MPH, that ratio inverts; one out of ten people will survive.
90% of pedestrians hit by a car at 20 MPH will survive.
10% of pedestrians by by a car at 40 MPH will survive.
These statistics show that speed limits are not arbitrary. They are deliberately calibrated and set by traffic engineers to keep all road users as safe as possible.
Last December, SDOT and the Seattle mayor committed to improving the safety of Seattle streets. The city recommitted to Vision Zero, a program which aims to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. This increased effort includes:
- lowering default speed limits for arterial streets to 25 MPH;
- lowering default speed limits on non-arterial (residential) streets to 20 MPH;
- increasing the number of safety-upgraded traffic lights,
- and establishing a traffic task force.
Stop driving too fast.
While these measures are designed to protect pedestrians, drivers and passengers, they are only as effective as every driver’s level of commitment to follow them. People speed for a lot of reasons: running behind schedule, traffic delays, distraction. Some feel anonymous behind the wheel, or just have a no regard for the law or for other people.
Keeping yourself and others safe on the road requires responsibility and deliberate decision-making from everyone in the community.
Regardless of the speed limit, here are suggestions for driving at safe speeds.
– Eliminate all distractions to give your full attention to driving.
– Take regular notice of your speedometer and of posted signs.
– Account for road conditions, including weather or construction.
– Plan your trip to allow extra time for traffic or other uncertainties.
* Most of the Seattle pedestrian deaths – like Adriana’s – are not “accidents.” They are predictable, preventable collisions. Referring to them as “accidents” absolves the driver of bad decisions like speeding on city streets.
The loss of Adriana Brown forever changed the lives of her husband and kids, her parents, and brothers. It affected a wide circle of family, friends, neighbors—and even gym members.
The driver who hit and killed Adriana walked away with only a traffic citation. He has to live with the knowledge that his actions caused her death.
Think about how this one traffic fatality changed the lives of a lot of people.
That happens at least 30,000 times a year, in the U.S. alone.