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These are the most dangerous roads in Washington State, according to a personal injury attorney

These are the most dangerous roads in Washington State, according to a personal injury attorney

most dangerous roads in Washington

Just about everyone knows that driving is an inherently dangerous activity, even for those who do everything right.

But how dangerous? In 2021 alone, there were 575 reported deadly crashes in the state of Washington, and more than 2,500 car accidents that resulted in no deaths but at least one serious injury. Sadly, both of these numbers are up from the previous year, despite efforts to make roads and vehicles safer.

Of course, some journeys are more dangerous than others. As a personal injury attorney, I see firsthand how certain road types and locations pose an increased risk of serious and fatal crashes.

In this blog post, we’re going to dig into the Washington State Department of Transportation crash data, as well as a few independent studies, to identify some of the state’s most dangerous roads, draw some conclusions about the findings, and talk about what to do next if you or a loved one find yourselves dealing with the physical, emotional, and financial fallout of car accident that wasn’t your fault.

most dangerous roads in Washington

What are the most dangerous roads in Washington?

most dangerous roads in Washington

Identifying the most dangerous road in Washington is a more challenging question to answer than it first appears. You could simply list the road with the most fatal crashes, but then you won’t be accounting for things like road length, traffic volumes, and other factors.

Consider the fact that, if a well-designed road carries a million cars a day, there are going to be crashes despite the best efforts of traffic engineers and drivers. If the most badly designed road in the world only carries five cars per year, there might not be any. But you still wouldn’t ever want to drive on it!

That said, the Washington Traffic Safety Commision built an impressive tool that lets you map out where fatal crashes occur in the state and draw some conclusions. Let’s take a look at some of the big “winners” for most dangerous road.

Washington State Route 99 (Pacific Highway)

When the personal finance experts at MoneyGeek analyzed the Traffic Safety Commission data and looked for roadways with the most fatal crashes per mile, three separate sections of SR-99 made their top five list, including both of the top two:

  • Aurora Avenue between N. Winona Ave and N. 155th St (Seattle): 2.2 fatal accidents per mile
  • Pacific Highway between S. 252nd St and S. 176th St (Kent): 1.8 fatal accidents per mile
  • Pacific Highway between S. 16th St and S. 263rd St (Kent): 1.2 fatal accidents per mile

One thing that’s immediately apparent if you’re familiar with these sections of SR-99? They’re all classic examples of a “stroad.”

This term, coined by urban planner Charles Marohn, refers to roadways that try to combine the function of a “road” (a thoroughfare designed to move high volumes of traffic quickly across distances) and a “street” (which is designed to have multiple close-together destinations, such as houses or shops, where people come and go).

The thing is, just like most American-style futons make lousy beds and lousy couches, stroads typically do both of their tasks badly and increase the danger for everyone. The problem is that, on the same roadway, you have multiple lanes of traffic trying to get across town at 40+ miles per hour, while you also have tons of cars constantly merging in and out of traffic to get to and from businesses and side streets.

This mix of fast- and slow-moving traffic all within a narrow, congested roadway creates a dangerous environment where even one momentarily distracted driver can have devastating consequences for many.

Interstate-5 (especially between Lakewood and Federal Way)

While in theory the limited access nature of interstates make them safer for motorists than “stroads,” sometimes design flaws or just massive traffic volumes can lead to significant danger. The latter is certainly the case on I-5 around Tacoma, as heavy commuter traffic in the mornings and evenings lead to headaches (and sometimes much worse) for motorists.

US-2

While US-2 won’t rank highly on a study of fatal crashes per mile, that’s only because traffic volumes aren’t very high. But if you’ve ever driven it between Seattle and Spokane (or the even more rugged North Cascades Highway, SR-20) you know that the remoteness combined with the terrain can make transportation treacherous, particularly in inclement weather.

On top of that, depending on where you crash, it may take up to an hour or more for first responders to arrive. A severe injury that might have been treatable if it had occurred in Seattle or Kent could turn deadly if the nearest hospital is hours away.

RELATED ARTCILE: To what extent can Washington car accidnets be blamed on environmental factors?

most dangerous roads in Washington

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What factors increase the risk of injuries and fatal crashes on Washington roads?

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Drivers should always drive defensively and pay careful attention to the road regardless of the circumstances. But even if you do everything right, some roads are just fundamentally more dangerous than others. Here are a few things to look out for:

Roads in densely populated areas

Whether you use the Washington Traffic Safety Commission’s mapping tool, MoneyGeek’s analysis, or any other tool based on mapping out the locations of actual crashes, one conclusion is inescapable: the more people, the more crashes. It’s no surprise that the four counties with the most fatal accidents (King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County, Spokane County) also happen to be the four most populous counties in the state.

Speeding

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that speeding is a factor in more than a quarter of fatal traffic accidents. Even worse, MoneyGeek’s study of the deadliest roads in Washington found that speeding was a factor in 31% of Washington’s deadly crashes. Even a small increase in miles per hour can have a profound impact.

One of the most sobering traffic facts related to the coronavirus pandemic is that in 2020, despite there being fewer cars on the road and fewer total crashes, traffic fatalities actually went up dramatically across the country. While there are many reasons for this, one very plausible hypothesis is that lower road congestion (on roads designed to accommodate high speeds) resulted in an increase in average driving speeds. And on “stroads” like SR-99, speeding drivers are especially dangerous for low-speed traffic entering or exiting the roadway.

RELATED POST: Speeding a leading cause of crashes in Washington

Time of day and week

According to research from the National Safety Council, non-fatal accidents tend to peak during the late afternoon and early evening, with more on weekdays than weekends. In other words: during the afternoon rush hour, as you’d probably expect.

Fatal accidents, however, tend to spike later in the evening, and are much higher on weekend evenings than other days of the week. I’m sure you can think of many contributing reasons for this—fading light, drowsiness, speeding, distracted driving, and drunk driving to name a few.

Road conditions

In addition to certain road types being inherently more dangerous than others, the quality and condition of the road itself (and the area immediately surrounding it) also make a big difference.

Some of these factors may be permanent or semi-permanent features of the road design or terrain—for example, blind curves, steep elevation changes, poor lighting, lack of proper signage, missing guardrails, narrow shoulders with sharp drop-offs, etc.

In other cases, poor weather or even seasonal event hazards are to blame. The Washington Pass on SR-20 (one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the entire country) is famously shut down from November to May each year due to the high risk of heavy snowstorms, whiteout conditions, and avalanches that can leave 15 feet or more of snow on the roadway.

Washington injury lawyers

Need help after an accident? Trust the Herschensohn Law team

Washington injury lawyers

If you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident, or lost a loved one, contact the car accident and wrongful death attorneys at Herschensohn Law today. We’ve been handling these types of cases throughout the state for many years and fight aggressively to get our clients the full compensation they deserve.

Insurance companies will look for any excuse to get out of paying what they owe and will often try to pin at least some of the blame on injured motorists to reduce their own liability. And if you aren’t ready for these tricks and aren’t prepared to counter them effectively, they may well succeed.

Don’t give them that chance. Contacting our team of Washington injury lawyers as soon as possible after any accident you’re involved in can help ensure you get the medical attention and legal support you need. We can evaluate your situation, help you plan out your next steps, and gather the evidence and insight you need to maximize any compensation you’re entitled to. Contact us online or call us today at (206) 588-4344 to request your free consultation today.

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CONTACT HERSCHENSOHN LAW

Hurt? Let our law firm handle the details

When you request your free consultation, Kent personal injury attorney Zach Herschensohn will listen to you, answer your questions, lay out your legal options, and give you down-to-earth legal advice.

When you work with our law office, there are no obligations, hidden fees, or fine print. It’s that simple.

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References

Perkins, E (23 July, 2021). What Are Washington’s Deadliest Roads, and What Factors Contribute Most to its Fatal Accidents? MoneyGeek. Retrieved from https://www.moneygeek.com/insurance/auto/resources/most-deadly-roads-washington/

Washington Traffic Safety Commision (January 2022). Fatal Collisions Involving a Motor Vehicle in Washington (interactive map). Retrieved from https://wtsc.wa.gov/research-data/fatal-collision-map/

Marohn, C. (30 October 2017). The Stroad. Strong Towns. Retrieved from https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2017/10/30/the-stroad

U.S. Department of Transportation. Speeding. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/speeding

Nation Safety Council. Crashes by Time of Day and Day of Week, 2019. Retrieved from https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/motor-vehicle/overview/crashes-by-time-of-day-and-day-of-week/

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.