Russell & Hill, PLLC

Pedestrian Safety in Spokane: Insights and Statistics

Posted on : January 30, 2024Posted By : Russell HillPosted In : Pedestrian Accident

In 2018, a serious pedestrian accident in Spokane brought to the forefront the city’s responsibility for the safety of its residents. Benjamin Gedeon, struck by a vehicle at a North Spokane crosswalk, suffered life-altering injuries, leading to a significant legal case against the city. The incident not only highlighted the inherent risks pedestrians face but also raised questions about the city’s role in ensuring safe crossing areas.

The city of Spokane faced a lawsuit resulting in a $3.1 million settlement with Gedeon, a decision that stemmed from the city’s perceived negligence in maintaining safe pedestrian environments. The crosswalk where Gedeon was hit had been a known danger spot, lacking adequate safety measures despite previous recommendations for improvements, including a study prepared for the city by engineering firm, David Evans & Associates, ten years earlier regarding pedestrian crossings on Division. Gedeon’s ordeal brought to light the critical need for Spokane to reevaluate and enhance its pedestrian safety measures.

Gedeon’s traumatic brain injury and the subsequent legal outcome serve as a powerful reminder of the consequences of inadequate pedestrian safety measures. His case has become a catalyst for discussions about the need for more rigorous safety protocols on Spokane’s streets.

A Pattern of Danger: Spotlight on the Dangerous Division Street Crosswalk

The Rhoades Avenue and Division Street crosswalk in North Spokane, the site of Benjamin Gedeon’s accident, has a troubling history of pedestrian incidents. Information from Gedeon’s lawsuit called out 4 other individuals affected by this dangerous intersection.

Rhoades Ave and Division Street Crosswalk Map View

Google map showing division and rhoades crosswalk in Spokane
Google Map Screenshot of Rhoades Ave and Division Street in Spokane

Documented Incidents at Division Street Crosswalk

  • May 24, 2012: A 50-year-old man was struck in the southbound lane. This early incident set a concerning precedent for the safety of the crosswalk.
  • February 16, 2014: A 21-year-old woman was hit in a similar manner, highlighting a recurring issue of visibility and safety at this location.
  • September 28, 2016: A particularly tragic case where a 60-year-old woman suffered injuries leading to her death, further emphasizing the crosswalk’s dangers.
  • July 15, 2017: A 35-year-old man became yet another victim, reinforcing the crosswalk’s reputation as a hazardous area for pedestrians.

The repeated accidents at this intersection clearly signaled a critical safety issue and although Gadeon’s settlement didn’t include any specific improvements to the crossing, the city of Spokane did say it was evaluating options to make the intersection safer.

The Need for Improvements at Spokane Crosswalks

The consistent series of accidents at the Division Street crosswalk in North Spokane clearly indicates an urgent need for safety improvements at this crosswalk.

  • Ongoing Safety Concerns: Despite the recurring incidents, significant improvements to the crosswalk’s safety features have been delayed. The history of these accidents not only points to the specific dangers at this location but also mirrors the broader challenges of ensuring pedestrian safety in urban areas, especially since it typically takes years and many injuries or even deaths for local municipalities to take action on these dangerous intersections.
  • City’s Response Post-Gedeon Case: In the wake of Benjamin Gedeon’s case, the city did acknowledge the need for enhanced safety measures at the Rhoades Ave./Division St. crossing. While improvements were not part of the legal settlement, the city stated they were exploring options and seeking funding to make this crosswalk safer, however as of August 2023, no improvements had been made, as is shown in the Google street view image capture below.
  • Call for Action: The repeated nature of accidents at this location demands a critical evaluation of pedestrian safety measures in Spokane. It is imperative for city officials and residents to advocate for and implement necessary changes, not just at this crosswalk but across the city, to protect pedestrians and prevent future tragedies.

Image of Crosswalk at Rhoades Ave and Division Street in Spokane:

Picture of Rhoades Ave and Division St Crosswalk
Google Street View of Rhoades Ave and Division St Crosswalk (August 2023)

Spokane Pedestrian Accident Statistics

According to data from WSDOT, Spokane’s pedestrian accident statistics reveal concerning trends, with 51 lives lost between 2015 and 2023, indicating a significant safety issue. 2023 saw 9 reported deaths once again, a figure that has persisted in previous years. In comparison, despite Seattle’s much larger population, it recorded only 13 pedestrian fatalities in 2023, just 4 more than Spokane. There is an urgent need for Spokane to prioritize safety measures at crosswalks and other areas where pedestrians interact with traffic.

Year 2023 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015
Fatal 9 5 9 9 3 4 8 0 4
Suspected Serious Injury 30 32 22 27 20 24 26 19 12
Suspected Minor Injury 62 55 61 50 40 49 47 56 43
Possible Injury 24 20 36 34 73 81 53 81 76
No Apparent Injury 5 2 1 3 7 4 7 11 7
Total Accidents 130 114 129 123 143 162 141 167 142

Spokane has roughly only 10K more population than Tacoma, but below is a comparison of pedestrian accidents in Spokane and Tacoma.

Pedestrian Accident Statistics for Spokane and Tacoma
City Year Fatal Suspected Serious Injury Suspected Minor Injury Possible Injury No Apparent Injury Total Accidents
Spokane 2023 9 30 62 24 5 130
2022 5 32 55 20 2 114
2021 9 22 61 36 1 129
2020 9 27 50 34 3 123
2019 3 20 40 73 7 143
2018 4 24 49 81 4 162
2017 8 26 47 53 7 141
2016 0 19 56 81 11 167
2015 4 12 43 76 7 142
Spokane Totals 51 212 463 478 47 1251
Tacoma 2023 5 23 6 33 11 78
2022 5 15 20 53 8 101
2021 5 22 16 49 8 100
2020 1 12 18 39 8 78
2019 6 19 25 47 7 104
2018 6 22 40 67 9 144
2017 2 23 25 62 11 123
2016 8 23 28 56 5 120
2015 6 17 28 57 8 116
Tacoma Totals 44 176 206 463 75 964

Pedestrian Accident Stats: Spokane vs Tacoma

Overall, Spokane consistently had higher numbers across various categories, including total pedestrian incidents and the severity of injuries. This shows the pressing need for targeted interventions to enhance pedestrian safety in both cities, taking into account the specific challenges faced by each area.

Total Fatalities:

  • Spokane recorded a total of 51 pedestrian fatalities between 2015 and 2023.
  • Tacoma reported 44 pedestrian fatalities during the same period.

Total Suspected Serious Injuries:

  • Spokane had a total of 212 suspected serious injuries among pedestrians.
  • Tacoma reported 176 suspected serious injuries.

Total Suspected Minor Injuries:

  • Spokane had a total of 463 suspected minor injuries involving pedestrians.
  • Tacoma reported 206 suspected minor injuries.

Total Possible Injuries:

  • Spokane recorded a total of 478 possible injuries to pedestrians.
  • Tacoma reported 463 possible injuries.

Total Pedestrian Incidents:

  • Spokane had a total of 1251 pedestrian incidents.
  • Tacoma reported 964 pedestrian incidents.

Legal Perspectives on Pedestrian Accidents

In Spokane, when a pedestrian is hit by a vehicle, figuring out who is at fault involves looking closely at both the pedestrian’s actions and the driver’s behavior. The Division Street incidents, for example, brought up questions about whether drivers were paying enough attention and if the city had done enough to make crosswalks safe.

Pedestrian Rights and Driver Responsibilities

  • Pedestrian Rights: Pedestrians in Spokane have the right to safely use crosswalks and sidewalks, expecting drivers to follow traffic laws, like yielding at crosswalks. This was a key issue in Benjamin Gedeon’s case and similar incidents at the Division Street crossing.
  • Driver Responsibilities: Drivers in Spokane are legally required to protect pedestrians by following speed limits, not driving under the influence, being extra careful in areas with a lot of foot traffic, etc. This is fairly obvious, but the details of driver behavior goes under a microscope and is key to establishing fault in pedestrian accident lawsuits, as a driver’s failure to meet these legal obligations can directly lead to their liability for any injuries sustained by a pedestrian.
  • Determining Liability: In Spokane, pedestrian accident cases require careful legal examination due to their complex nature. Determining liability can be difficult, especially in incidents where multiple factors, such as poor crosswalk design or driver negligence, play a role. For instance, in Gedeon’s case, the liability extended beyond the driver to include the city’s responsibility for the crosswalk’s safety.
  • Working With an Attorney: Injured pedestrians should work with an experienced attorney who can effectively analyze all aspects of the incident, from potential driver negligence to broader issues like municipal responsibility for safe crosswalks, ensuring that victims’ rights are protected and they receive the compensation they deserve.

Preventative Measures and Safety Tips

Ensuring pedestrian safety involves actions from both pedestrians and drivers. Here are straightforward, actionable steps for both groups to help prevent accidents in Spokane, WA.

For Pedestrians:

  1. Use Crosswalks and Signals: Always cross streets at marked crosswalks, obeying pedestrian signals. This makes you more visible to drivers and aligns with traffic flow.
  2. Stay Visible: Wear bright or reflective clothing at night and make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them. Visibility is key to preventing accidents.
  3. Stay Alert: Avoid distractions like using smartphones or headphones when crossing streets. Your full attention is required to navigate urban traffic safely.
  4. Follow Traffic Rules: Understand and adhere to pedestrian traffic rules and signs. This includes not crossing against signals and using sidewalks where available.
  5. Educate Yourself: Familiarize yourself with Spokane’s pedestrian laws and safety guidelines available on the Washington State Department of Transportation website.

For Drivers:

  1. Yield to Pedestrians: Always give the right of way to pedestrians at crosswalks and intersections, as required by law. This is crucial in preventing collisions.
  2. Reduce Speed in Pedestrian Areas: Slow down in areas of high pedestrian traffic and school zones. Lower speeds give more reaction time if someone steps onto the road unexpectedly.
  3. Eliminate Distractions: Do not use mobile devices or engage in activities that take your attention off the road. A moment’s distraction can lead to irreversible consequences.
  4. Be Extra Cautious in Low Visibility: Increase vigilance during bad weather, at night, or in poorly lit areas where pedestrians are harder to see.
  5. Stay Educated: Regularly review state and local driving laws related to pedestrian safety. The City of Spokane’s official website provides resources and updates on traffic laws.

For the City: Enhancing Crosswalk Safety in Spokane, WA

Here are some possible measures the City of Spokane can implement to increase safety at crosswalks:

  1. Install Enhanced Crosswalk Signage: Bright, reflective signs can alert drivers well in advance of a crosswalk, especially those hidden by curves or hills.
  2. Implement Pedestrian Refuge Islands: These provide a safe space for pedestrians to wait if they’re unable to cross the entire street in one traffic light cycle, reducing the risk of accidents in multi-lane roads.
  3. Upgrade to LED Street Lighting: Improving street lighting around crosswalks enhances visibility for both pedestrians and drivers, crucial during early morning and nighttime.
  4. Deploy Flashing Crosswalk Lights: Rapid-flashing beacons (RRFBs) at crosswalks grab drivers’ attention more effectively than standard crosswalks, significantly reducing pedestrian accidents.
  5. Enforce Speed Limits: Utilizing speed cameras and increasing police presence in areas with high pedestrian traffic can deter speeding and encourage safer driving behaviors.
  6. Public Education Campaigns: Programs that educate both drivers and pedestrians about road safety, rights, and responsibilities can foster a culture of mutual respect and caution.
  7. Regular Safety Audits: Conducting periodic evaluations of crosswalks and surrounding areas to identify and rectify potential hazards can preemptively address safety concerns.
  8. Community Feedback Mechanisms: Establishing channels for residents to report unsafe conditions or suggest improvements ensures community involvement in pedestrian safety initiatives.
  9. Sidewalk Maintenance: Ensuring sidewalks are in good repair and free of obstructions encourages pedestrian use, reducing the likelihood of pedestrians walking in the street.
  10. Traffic Calming Measures: Implementing speed bumps, curb extensions, and roundabouts in residential areas and near schools can slow traffic, making it safer for pedestrians.

Improving pedestrian safety in Spokane is a job for all of us, not just the people in charge. The stories and numbers we’ve looked at show us how we can make our streets safer. We all have to do our part whether we’re walking, driving, or making the rules. By thinking about our own role in keeping Spokane safe, we can help stop accidents before they happen. This way, we make our city a safer place for everyone.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a pedestrian accident, it’s important to understand your rights and options. At Russell & Hill, PLLC, we’re committed to helping Spokane residents navigate the aftermath of a pedestrian accident with compassion and expertise. Our experienced pedestrian accident lawyers in Spokane can ensure you receive the support and compensation you deserve. Don’t navigate this challenging time alone; reach out to us for guidance and advocacy you can trust.

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