Update on Drunk Driving Incident Near Eckstein

I just got back from the memorial walk for the victims of the Eckstein drunk driving incident.  There were about 75 people (hard to tell with so many babes-in-arms) including Mayor McGinn and mayoral candidate, Peter Steinbrueck. 

The memorial site is quite moving with many flowers, two crosses and signs asking drivers to not drink and drive.  The neighbor with the baby goat who had been talking with the family just moments before the accident was also there.  It was nice of her to come and revisit what must have been a horrifying sight.

I was chatting with a few neighbors who feel strongly about crossing guards (I told them about the whole money issue at SPS or lack thereof).  One gentleman said that if the district told voters that the money we voted in was specifically going to support traffic safety, the voters would give it to the district.  Several of them also commented that there needs to be a flashing light each way to alert drivers that they are coming up to a school on a hill. 

The Ravenna Blog reports that there is a community meeting tomorrow, Tuesday the 2nd at 7 p.m.  at the Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center.   They will have live coverage at their blog if you cannot attend.

There's a long list of speakers including Council Member Tom Rasmussen, doctors from Harborview, SPD staff, SDOT staff, City Attorney's staff and the Mayor's staff.    As well, Senator David Frockt (D-46) will be attending.


SC Parent said…
Why can't we install a stop sign? It would be inconvenient, but effective and cheap. It seems like the safety issues are not limited to school hours.
Anonymous said…
I don't like to be facetious on a post about this tragic (and unnecessary) event, but Melissa - your title makes it seem like you are "drunking blogging"

Sniffy, you weren't being facetious - you were being unkind.

I work really hard and try to cover as many events and meetings as possible. I occasionally make a typing or grammatical mistake.

For the record, I never blog and drink.

SC, a stop sign? On 75th which is a major arterial? I'm thinking a flashing light to warn motorists that they are approaching a school.
Anonymous said…
Sorry if you're offended by my attempt at humor Melissa. It wasn't intended to be unkind! I appreciate what you do with this blog - and the typo's are few and far between.

Anonymous said…
What about a crossing with a pedestrian-controlled traffic light? The sort where you press the button when you want to cross, but which allows cars the right of way otherwise.

We live in Maple Leaf and they (the city?) installed one a couple of blocks from the park, outside an apartment building that houses the Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services. It's a similarly busy road, so I think a similar approach might work.

This is such an awful tragedy; I've driven past the site several times and it's just heart-breaking to see those tributes.

--ML Mama
Patrick said…
I think NE 75th should be limited to one lane each direction between 25th Ave. and 35th Ave. Sidewalks should bulb out at each intersection to make the crosswalks shorter and make pedestrians and drivers more visible to each other, and not hidden behind another car. Also all the crosswalks should be marked with paint, and flashing lights at the beginning of the school zone.
Kat said…
There is a School Road Safety Task Force that the Mayor had started before this incident. Still an important issue. More info below.

Draft Roles, School Road Safety Task Force

· Act as a sounding board for Mayor and City staff through the process of creating a School Road Safety Analysis & Action Plan (SRSAaAP). This process will require members to:

o Provide input on analysis of safety, accessibility, and mobility around schools

o Provide input on school zone safety enforcement practices in Seattle, including the implementation and outreach plan for installing additional school zone speed cameras

o Provide input on process and criteria for prioritizing physical improvements at schools

o Provide input on current City road safety education programs and recommend additional education programs based on best practices

o Provide input on policies and programs impacting trip patterns and mode choices by students and parents

· Act as a liaison to school communities and a conduit for feedback regarding the elements of the SRSAaAP

· Promote public understanding of and participation in school traffic safety programs

School Road Safety Analysis & Action Plan

Outreach, Draft Components of the Plan

Exact scope and scale of the School Road Safety Analysis & Action Plan is still to be determined but may include the following main components:
1) Evaluation of existing street environments around schools
2) Review of existing legislation and policies related to school traffic safety and mobility
3) Development of a process and criteria for identifying and prioritizing physical improvements near schools, building on the existing Safe Routes to School program
4) Development of a safety and mobility education toolbox that can be used at all schools, building on elements developed already through Be Super Safe (the education campaign for the Road Safety Action Plan)
5) Development of an implementation plan for installing traffic school zone speed cameras and other potential enforcement programs
6) Review of best practices from peer cities for enforcement (including emphasis patrols) and recommend potential changes to existing enforcement practices

City of Seattle
Office of Mayor Mike McGinn

Rebecca Deehr
Policy Analyst
PO Box 94749
Seattle, WA 98124
T: (206) 233-2662
F: (206) 684-5360
Anonymous said…
With all due respect to the pedestrian safety concerns of the community, the man arrested was drunk -stinking drunk. That issue needs to be addressed as well.His DUI history and showing up drunk at a recent court appearance, should give us all pause. Why was he allowed to get behind the wheel? As someone who walks daily and frequently is unnerved at the behavior or drivers toward pedestrians, the bigger issue for me is our drunk driving laws. Neither flashing lights nor marked crosswalks would have prevented this man from killing two and gravely injuring two more.

"What about a crossing with a pedestrian-controlled traffic light? The sort where you press the button when you want to cross, but which allows cars the right of way otherwise."

There is one right in front of Eckstein(the students are well-trained to use ONLY that intersection). The area is very tricky as Eckstein sits at the top of a hill and cars accelerate both sides (you can fly down the hill towards 25th if you aren't careful).

The people hit used an unmarked corner (as is their right and cars should stop).

MC, yes the issue of drunk driving is something that our country just refuses to get a grip on. Fine people heavily and put them in jail for 30 days on the FIRST DUI and that will get their attention. Nothing like taking money and/or their car away from them to get their attention.

European countries do NOT put up with this nonsense.
Patrick said…
MC, you're right, DUI penalties should be increased and enforced. First DUI should certainly come with prison time. 2nd DUI should be permanent revocation of the license, and loss of any vehicles titled to them. Impound the vehicles and only release them to a new owner who holds a current license. There should also be a penalty for lending a car to someone without a valid driver's license, maybe as strong as losing the vehicle.

This driver was not "allowed" to drive, he was driving with a suspended license.

The pedestrian safety concerns to 75th St. are concerns anyway. Speeding and the failing to yield to pedestrians there have been a problem forever.

Eric B said…
I believe there's research showing that blinking yellow lights over crosswalks that are otherwise uncontrolled (no stop sign or traffic light) actually make the crossing more dangerous. The thinking is that they give the pedestrians a false sense of security while not changing drivers' behavior. I drive through an intersection like that every day, and I find myself tuning out the yellow blinkers.

I believe that the pedestrian-activated blinking yellow lights at road level are more effective.
Anonymous said…
"I think NE 75th should be limited to one lane each direction between 25th Ave. and 35th Ave"

I understand the motivation, but the growing trend, with the new bike lanes, dividers on 70th & 65th & 55th is to turn all the east/west traffic streets north of the ship canal in a slog. One lane, and left turns can completely shut down traffic and back it up so that there are cars idling on the street.

Ultimately, I don't know what happens when the traffic gets constrained that significantly. Will people rearrange their lives so they don't have to go cross-town? or get to I-5? Will they rearrange their timing? Will they just drive too fast through lanes that are too narrow?

I feel like Seattle is stuck with an aspirational goal that isn't working. We want the city to be more walkable & bikeable, but we are still a city built around the idea of cars, with hills, and isolated services, and mediocre public transportation, and, in NE, a population used to cars. I'm not sure that the aspiration will result in safer traffic.

ZB, good points in that last paragraph. We have a very geographically challenged city that sometimes does make walking and biking difficult.
Anonymous said…
"MC, yes the issue of drunk driving is something that our country just refuses to get a grip on. Fine people heavily and put them in jail for 30 days on the FIRST DUI and that will get their attention. Nothing like taking money and/or their car away from them to get their attention."

I think we don't get a grip on it because drunk drivers like this one are in the throes of a serious addiction. They are not in control of their behavior. Reading the news reports, this guy was given support and second (and third and fourth and . . .) chances, and seems to have at least occasionally sincerely convincing of his plan to deal his addiction. Add this pattern to the incredible dependence on cars in this country, and people seemed to think that keeping this guy in his car would be better in the long run (i.e. he could get treatment, hopefully, or keep a job, . . . .).

I doubt very much that a 30 day jail term would have made a substantial difference for this guy. Others, maybe, just like blinking lights and crosswalks and stop signs might not stop a drunk driver, but might stop the sloppy driver, or the texting one.

ZB, you missed my point about the fine. You hit someone with a $10k fine for the first DUI, you will have their attention. Can't just be jail - go after their money.

This is the only good lesson from OJ Simpson - if you can't put them in jail, take their money.
Patrick said…
I agree that 30 days in jail wouldn't have made much difference to this person, but it would for some. That's why for the second DUI I say we shouldn't depend on the addict's good behavior. Giving up alcohol isn't going to happen. Instead, take their vehicle away. Not just their license, but any vehicle they hold title to, and any vehicle they are caught driving that they do not hold title to. If we don't want them to take the economic hit of losing the vehicle, it could be impounded and only released after it's sold to a driver with a valid license.

Yes, a life without a car is less convenient than with one. That will have to be a major factor in where they live and where they work. But it can be done.
Unknown said…
Interesting post, would you be in favor of increasing the DUI costs? In Denmark, a person’s drunk driving fine is calculated by dividing a person’s salary by 2.5, then multiplying that number by the person’s BAC. A fine like that would go a long way to preventing drunk driving.
T Charles said…
There should be a stop sign in place.
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