Fatal accident in Wedgwood

Earlier this week two people were killed and two others are at Harborview (still in comas from what I gather) after being hit by a vehicle at the intersection of NE 75th and 33rd NE. When I first saw the SPD and SFD tweets, I could visualize what had happened, as well as the probable direction of the vehicle. I used to live about a half block to the north, and very often crossed the same way as the victims. It's quite a dicey intersection. The story has been covered pretty thoroughly by the Seattle Times, including an update describing the event in detail.

 Flowers at accident site

Flowers at accident site

As I mentioned, the intersection is tricky to cross, and like the victims, I often crossed northbound on 33rd; it often took quite a while before I could actually get across. This is what you see as a pedestrian from the southeast corner of the intersection:

 View from southwest corner looking east

View from southwest corner looking east

There's a definite slope between 33rd and 34th, and a steeper one before you get to 35th. The first car in the photo is a bit on this side of the intersection at 34th, the second car at the intersection, and you can just make out another car behind that which is just coming over the hump on the east side of 34th. At this point I wouldn't cross, but I would if the first two cars weren't there. It may sound somewhat conservative, but sometimes cars come pretty quickly over up the hill. Combine that with looking out for eastbound traffic (there's good visibility in that direction) and you can see how it may take a while to cross.

As for the accident this week, it sounds as if the woman carrying the baby made it across fine, but went to help her parents, who were slower to cross the intersection. The driver said the sun was in his eyes, and I've often gone westbound on 75th and had the sun right at the horizon, making it extremely difficult to see. However, this time of year, it's a bit further to the south, so while he may have seen it, the sun should have been at a different angle than the pedestrians (unless he had his visor flipped down so low he couldn't see them). Of course, when visibility is that bad, the prudent thing for a driver to do is to slow down.

So if it's such a tricky intersection, why cross there at all? Mostly for convenience, since the signal to the west is a couple blocks away (right in front of Eckstein Middle School) and the signal to the east is also a couple blocks away in addition to being down a steep hill. If you allow plenty of time and cross on the west side you can safely cross, but once you get to the middle, you have to keep checking for westbound cars. And as people now know, if you can't cross quickly, you're better off heading to one of the signals.

I've been closely following the story all week, and am saddened not only for the loss of life, but also that it probably wouldn't have happened on most days; I've seen cars stop to allow slow crossers to get to the other side. A lot of reporting has centered around suspended licenses and not having ignition-interlock devices installed, but when it comes down to it, as a pedestrian that's the kind of driver you need to most look out for.