Over the past year, our firm has experienced a surge in calls from pedestrian-related accidents. So when I read read the most recent annual GHSA Spotlight on Highway Safety Report (released Mar. 8, 2016), I wasn’t surprised to see that pedestrian fatalities were up by 28% in Washington State. A recent Seattle Times article also cited the GHSA report, which pointed out that pedestrian deaths increased from 32 in the first six months of 2014 to 41 during the same period last year, a 28-percent increase.
A couple takeaways that I find especially valuable: 1) pedestrian deaths are much higher at non-intersection related accidents (e.g., not waiting to cross at an intersection) and 2) walking at night is far more likely to lead to a fatality than walking at dawn or dusk.
With the quiet launch of the First Hill Streetcar this weekend, I am reminded of client Daniel Ahrendt‘s amazing recovery from his bicycle crash at an intersection, where the streetcar runs. A seasoned commuter cyclist, Daniel was riding his bicycle on the clear and dry morning of May 4, 2015. However, the streetcar tracks posed the same hazard as they always did for cyclists who wanted to ride on that commuter facility at the intersection of Rainier Avenue South, Boren Avenue South, Jackson and 14th Avenue South.
This past Christmas, KOMO TV aired a “Special Report” on Daniel’s road to recovery, after a horrific incident, where he fell, after his tire was caught in the streetcar tracks and a Metro bus ran over him. The story reveals the strength of Daniel’s character and the amazing family that he had that supported him throughout the most challenging year of his life.
Worth noting is that there are international best practices that could have prevented this catastrophic incident. More to come in future blog posts.
While some, like Ride the Ducks of Seattle’s CEO Brian Tracey, are thrilled to see the Ducks back on the roads, others aren’t. The Stritmatter Kessler firm is representing several of the catastrophically injured from last year’s tragic crash on Aurora Bridge.
(NOTE: On a recent Q13 Fox story about the RTD’s return to the roads, one of our attorney’s is quoted, but her name is incorrectly spelled. It is Karen Koehler.)
I’m often an early adopter of high tech gadgets, when it’s a no brainer. This one will help me stay alive longer and help me ride more safely on my hybrid bike beyond the bounds of my immediate neighborhood. Now, with Garmin’s Varia Bike Radar and Varia Vision, I may just try cycling to work.
Garmin recently bought Varia, a company whose technology focuses on radar designed to improve cyclist safety. Several months ago, Garmin rolled out Varia Rearview Bike Radar. which has a light that attaches to the rear of a bike and scans as far as about 450 feet. It works with a compatible unit that attaches to the bicycle handlebars, to warn the cyclist about what’s behind them and the rate that the object is approaching. (Yes, iKubu introduced a similar, less user friendly product with Backtracker.)
There are also Varia smart lights that adapt to a cyclist’s speed and weather conditions. When a cyclist uses the Varia with a compatible GPS, the Varia headlight will project its beam further ahead and adjust based on the speed of the bike. The tail light will use the same data to increase its intensity as a cyclist decelerates, thus warning traffic behind the Varia-enabled cyclist. What’s also cool is that the beams can automatically adjust in brightness via the GPS unit’s ambient light sensor.
Varia Vision, which also pairs well with the Varia Bike Radar, does almost everything Google Glass did, complete with a touch-sensitive strip on the side, for navigating the device’s UI, that works with wet fingers or while wearing gloves. And because it’s part of the company’s Varia line of cycling devices that was introduced in July of last year, the Vision can also connect to the Garmin Rearview Bike Radar and notify the wearer of a car coming up behind them so they can ensure they’re not riding in its path.
Yes, this technology is more appealing than Google Glass from my perspective. This is especially because sharing the road with increasingly crowded roads with aggressive drivers seems to result in more and more bicycle accidents in Seattle. These Garmin products help reduce cyclist accidents as cyclists can focus their eyes on the road ahead of them.
I wish I had learned about this before Christmas. But perhaps this would make a good Valentine’s Day gift (yes, I’ll make sure that my husband reads this blog post).
The deadly Ride The Ducks crash that claimed six lives on Sept. 24th on the Aurora Bridge. Today the Ducks attempts to turn the corner. It is is the first day since that crash that some of the Ducks amphibious vehicles will be out back on the roads in limited numbers in Seattle.
Frustration and surprise were among some of the reactions from SKW clients Yuta Masumoto and Mazda Hutapea, international students at North Seattle Community College, who were on the bus and who sustained serious injuries as a result of the crash. These two young students, excited to study abroad, are now faced with long recovery times to deal with broken bones, torn ligaments, and bodies that resemble those who have lived four times longer than each of them.
Their lawsuits were filed today and to hold the Ducks company accountable for vehicles that were apparently fraught with mechanical issues.
*Doug Phillips is co-counsel.
A few days ago, news reported the plight of SKW client, Phuong Dinh, 18 year old international student, who was seriously injured in the Oct. 2015 Ride the Ducks crash. With a long way to go in her recovery, she also had to worry about losing her health coverage. Please read about the wonderful turn of events in today’s Seattle Times article,”Ride the Ducks crush victim to get help from state, college.
I just read an article in today’s Seattle Times that I had to share here as it’s a stark reminder that distracted driving can kill.
Washington was one of the first states to enact a ban on texting or talking on a handheld cellphone while operating a moving vehicle. Under WA State law, drivers can be charged under one of three prongs: 1) Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol; 2) in a reckless manner; or 3) with disregard for the safety of others. The Seattle Times article is about a WA resident charged under the third prong.
A Seattle resident allegedly tampered with her cell phone records, to hide her pattern of distracted driving. The woman was charged with vehicular homicide just last week. A King County prosecutor accused the woman of talking on her cellphone when she struck and killed an elderly pedestrian in February 2014. The police indicated that she altered phone records in an attempt to cover up her distracted-driving behavior.
Last year, on a clear and dry February afternoon, 78 year old Tze Kiu Ng stepped off a Metro bus at a bus stop in South Seattle. Mr. Ng was walking eastward at a marked crosswalk. A woman driving a minivan was stopped at a stop sign behind the bus. Ng had almost crossed the street when the woman accelerated across the intersection and rammed the van into him. The woman stayed in her vehicle for about five minutes, talking on her phone, the bus driver later told police.
The police easily ruled out speed and impairment. But the driver charged with vehicular homicide told officers she “never saw the pedestrian until the impact occurred.”
The day was cold, clear and sunny and there was nothing to obstruct her view of Ng, the charges say.
Although the defendant turned over some phone records, the formatting raised suspicions because of lack of information regarding the cellphone carrier.
I just hope plenty of people read this and share it with others. Too often I see drivers texting or yakking on their phones while driving. This type of distracted driving is just as lethal as drunk driving.
Decide for yourself who has the more cogent arguments, when watching the Washington State Supreme Court oral arguments for Wuthrich v. King County. We’re proud of Ray Kahler, Seattle/Hoquiam trial lawyer for demonstrating his mastery of the relevant case law in arguing for Wuthrich.
The divide between cyclists and drivers seems to grow by the month. Personally, I try to sit on the sidelines because I can see both perspectives. However, I also see drivers practically kill cyclists with inattention and poor habits. In many ways, I’m a wanna-be-cyclist, as I love to ride my bike with my child around our quiet neighborhood of Magnolia. However, at my job I see more than my share of tragic accidents, where diligent cyclists get mowed down because a driver was too busy texting his girlfriend or just didn’t bother to yield at a stop sign for a cyclist, who had the right of way.
Regardless, I’m undecided about the possible new law that will allow cyclists in San Francisco to yield at a stop sign. The widely acknowledged “Idaho stop,” named because it’s legal in Idaho for cyclists, may cause greater consternation among drivers, who are increasingly angered by rule-flouting cyclists. From my vantage point, it #SoundsLikeABadIdea. But, I’m going to ask our resident cyclist/attorney, Dan the Bike Man, for his studied perspective. Stay tuned for some potentially interesting banter between Dan, an endurance cyclist by night/weekend and trial attorney by day and myself, the mild-mannered pseudo-cyclist…