MORE THAN DRIVER ERROR? DEFECTIVE ROADWAY DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS IN MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENTS

Driver error isn’t the only cause of motor vehicle accidents. Improper roadway design can amplify consequences or even cause accidents.

Take yesterday’s fatal Ride the Ducks v. charter bus accident on the Aurora Bridge:

Early reports from the Seattle Police Department indicate the Ride the Ducks vehicle crossed over into opposing lanes, where it then collided with the charter bus.

And while further details of what caused the crash are still fuzzy, questions can’t be avoided about the safety of a narrow, six-lane bridge with no dividing barrier.

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A 2002 study by WSDOT, along with the Seattle Department of Transportation and King County Metro, noted that the stretch of state Route 99 between the north end of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the city of Shoreline was ranked third-worst for high-accident corridors in the state.

For the Aurora Bridge, which is part of state Route 99, the study recommended adding a median to divide the north and south lanes as well as moving pedestrian walkways under the bridge to allow widening the lanes in both directions.

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But little has been done to alter traffic on the bridge, likely because anything lessening the north and south flow would put further pressure on an often choked piece of highway.

With these motor vehicle accidents—especially where there may not be enough liability insurance to go around—it is important to determine whether there are any roadway design problems or defects that caused or contributed to the accident.

In the Duck case it’s going to be important to focus on lane width and the absence of an adequate divider.

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