Wedgwood Fatal Collision Highlights Pedestrian Safety Concerns

Apr 25, 2013

It’s been one month since a fatal car crash in Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood killed two pedestrians near Eckstein Middle School. The collision also severely injured two people, including an infant, who was 10-days-old at the time.

The driver is facing multiple criminal charges; prosecutors say he was drunk and a repeat offender. The case has sparked a debate over the state’s DUI laws and has renewed the discussion about pedestrian safety.

On the northwest corner of Northeast 75th Street and 33rd Avenue NE near the scene of the crash, there’s a tableau made up of notes, candles and flowers. It grows everyday as people continue to add to it.

Twice a day, Lacia Bailey and her young pet goat, Truffle, cross the street to tidy up the memorial.

The memorial is in memory of Dennis and Judith Schulte. They were crossing the street with their daughter-in-law, Karina, who was carrying their grandson Elias. And as they crossed, a black Chevy Silverado plowed into the family.

The crash has accelerated the city’s plan to make the area safer. City engineers say many drivers are whizzing through the neighborhood driving over the school speed zone limit of 20 miles an hour. City traffic engineer Dongho Chang says the city plans to install flashing beacons and radar signs that will tell drivers how fast they’re going. The city is also considering repainting 75th Street, turning it into a two-lane street with a center turn lane. That, he says, should help cut down on speeding.

Chang says the city is considering making similar changes at every school in the city. The city’s transportation department plans to hold a series of public meetings before making some of the proposed changes in Wedgwood.

Statistically speaking, Seattle is a safe city for pedestrians. According to the latest complete statistics from the City of Seattle, pedestrian-involved collisions are down 23 percent compared to the previous year.

But for retired school principal and longtime pedestrian activist Richard Dyksterhuis the statistics don’t include a lot of people. He notes that many parents drive their kids to school because they feel that the routes aren’t safe. 

“If you don’t have the pedestrians out there then your numbers are going to be really good,” he says. Dyksterhuis says the city should concentrate on putting more sidewalks along arterials and along routes to school.

Chang cautions that as the days get nicer there will be more kids walking around, and that will mean that drivers will need to be even more careful and respectful.