Make eye contact, wear bright clothes and only cross the street at designated locations. These are common instructions dictated to people trying to navigate our cities on foot in order to avoid getting hit by a car. What advice then should we be telling our homes and businesses, which were struck by cars and trucks on average two times per week in 2022 according to a story by David Kroman for the Seattle Times?
Every once in a while, someone driving a car or truck into a building does make the news, especially if there is dramatic security camera footage. But it is often treated as
“news of the bizarre.” But it is not actually rare, which is frankly even more bizarre. Our dangerous streets designed to accommodate irresponsible car and truck speeds inevitably leads to some of those vehicle drivers losing control and crashing into a light pole, ditch or building. Sometimes it’s due to a high-speed collision, sometimes it’s DUI, and sometimes the driver simply mistakes the gas pedal for the brake.
Beyond the death or injury of people in and outside of the building-bound vehicle, these collisions can also close businesses or destroy homes. As Charles Mudede at the Stranger asked, “Why do they generate no outrage?”
But beyond the building collisions themselves, the fact that people are crashing into buildings sure makes people’s efforts to avoid getting hit while walking or biking feel futile. If a building, which is not even on the road and hasn’t moved since it was built, can’t avoid a collision, then what hope do I have when I use a crosswalk? The major problem is the dangerous design of our streets and public places. Everything else is secondary.
Last year, a car or truck crashed into a building in Seattle on average every 3½ days — more than 100 times. That was the most in a single year since at least 2012, according to Seattle Fire Department records provided through a public disclosure request.
Building crashes represent only a fraction of the city’s overall traffic collisions, which number in the thousands each year. But their suddenness and potential for destruction to people and structures mean each incident brings with it an outsized feeling of unease — a sense that the danger of the city’s streets may not be confined to the city’s streets.
Many end in injury and some, like a 2017 crash near Lake City, are deadly. Damage to buildings and homes can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars and sideline businesses for months.