Report released on deadly Capitol Hill pedestrian collision

From the SPD collision report

From the SPD collision report

Police have released the report documenting the collision that took the life of a 79-year-old Capitol Hill man walking his dog across Belmont Ave E some three months after the deadly crash.

CHS reported on the death of Max Richards after he suffered a head injury in the September 21st crash along the busy, sloping street and the community response that followed calling for more to be done to improve safety at the crossing and across the area. But until now, there was no official record available of the crash that took the literature professor’s life. The released report clears up the circumstances of the collision and provides a stark reminder of how quickly a dangerous situation for pedestrians and drivers can unfold.

While much of the concern about Belmont Ave E that followed his death was about high speeds on the sloping street, Richards was killed by a vehicle that had just been stopped at a stop sign before swinging onto Belmont.

Here is how the driver, a 40-year-old Maple Valley woman in a 2016 Jeep Cherokee, described the crash to police:

XXX XXX explained that just prior to the collision, she was driving (alone in her Jeep Cherokee) northbound on Bellevue Pl. E. When XXX arrived at Belmont Ave. E. she stopped for the stop sign and waited while an eastbound vehicle cleared the intersection. XXX said that she looked both directions and then began a left turn onto westbound Belmont Ave. E. While She was turning, XXX saw an adult male step off the northwest corner, directly in the path of her vehicle. XXX believed that her vehicle was about a foot away from the pedestrian when she first saw him. XXX said that she “slammed” on her brakes at the same time the pedestrian stopped. The right front corner of XXX’s Jeep “bumped” the pedestrian and he fell backwards onto the pavement. After the collision occurred XXX stopped her Jeep, got out, and tried to help the downed pedestrian. XXX, along with several bystanders called 9-1-1 for medical assistance.

Other witnesses who said they saw the collision at a distance corroborated the account.

While no speed calculations are included in the report released to CHS, it does document a driver who had only seconds to react before colliding with Richards — but not because she was moving rapidly up or down Belmont Ave E. The collision, instead, unfolded in only a matter of feet as the driver made a turn onto the busy street while trying to keep out an eye for other drivers.

Police found no signs of impairment with the driver who was shaken and extremely upset when officers arrived, according to the report. Police arriving at the scene found Richards in a pool of blood, being held by neighbors and passersby who stopped to help. Information on his dog’s identification tag helped authorities contact his wife. He was rushed to Harborview where he later died.

In November, city crews installed a new painted crosswalk near the scene of the crash. In the past 10 years, 234 people in Seattle have been killed in motor vehicle crashes, according to the Seattle Neighborhood Greenways group.

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9 thoughts on “Report released on deadly Capitol Hill pedestrian collision

  1. The crosswalk helps drivers notice that there are pedestrians about to cross, but that doesn’t mean they will stop for us. It’s still very dangerous to cross. I’ve waited 30 seconds for cars to slow down on that crosswalk. There needs to be a sign that says “Stop for Pedestrians”.

    • But Washington law doesn’t require drivers to stop for pedestrians who are “about to cross” — drivers must stop for pedestrians who are “within an unmarked or marked crosswalk when the pedestrian or bicycle is upon or within one lane of the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling.”

      As long as you’re standing on the sidewalk waiting to cross, you’re not “upon the roadway” or “within a crosswalk” — “roadway” and “crosswalk” are both legally defined to exclude the sidewalk.

      Until you actually set foot (or wheel) on the crosswalk itself, drivers aren’t required to stop, and many won’t. Signs don’t change the law, and the majority of drivers will take every inch they’re given.

    • Josh, I was on the crosswalk, in the road. It helps for you to try and cross that street during rush hour mornings and evenings then you will understand. Even when I’ve started crossing, oncoming cars on the other end try and zoom past me (especially going uphill). I think its because they don’t want to lose momentum by stopping.

  2. It’s the law in Washington State to stop for pedestrians. Perhaps there need to be more signs and perhaps not: no one reads signs anyway.

    But it does point to a larger problem, as I see it, that we have this belief that testing for a driver’s license is a one and done affair. Perhaps such public safety issues need to be more repetitive and ongoing, like advertising. Those readers who are old enough will remember the Ad Council public service announcements from the 1970s (and their address in Pueblo, Colorado). Perhaps it’s time we, collectively, as a society, resurrect such a PSA program about such safety announcements and good driving habits and safe driving habits.

    And we have got to get over this insidious idea that it all falls on the driver’s shoulders in all cases: we are one interactive ecosystem of drivers, pedestrians, and movement systems, and the influences and distractions pursuant to them. A systemic view and not solely crying out at the lowest common denominator political fruit of speed would go much further in really reducing traffic deaths and improving over all safety. I know that would be hard and time-consuming but what is more important, the short-term political game or the long-term health and survivability of our community?

    Something to ponder. Thanks.

  3. Drivers turning left also have a blind spot that many don’t realize. It’s the post on the left side of the windshield. This has gotten bigger to make cars stronger in crashes, but now it is so big as to block a good sized wedge of view forward. Drivers need to be careful of this and really look as they are making turns.

  4. This is a good example of why uninformed speculation following accidents is often totally wrong. In this case, many commenters blamed the accident on excessive speed along Belmont Ave E, which we now know had nothing at all to do with it.

    I can understand why the driver failed to see Mr. Richards as he started to cross. The “blind spot” as noted above can be a factor. Also, I think a driver’s brain in situations like this is focused on being sure no cars are approaching, and not on any pedestrians. I’m not saying this should be the case, but in reality it is.

    • I think excessive speed could still have been a factor if the cars being waited for were going faster than 30mph, the arterial speed limit at the time (now 25mph). Speeding causes difficulty for everyone on the road, not just those in the path of the speeding vehicle.

  5. I walk on this stretch of Belmont Ave every day, and traffic moves too fast on this hill to be safe. Furthermore, drivers making left turns have poor visibility and have to over-accellerate to make the turn. It seems like this could have been avoided if the driver didn’t have to slam the gas to get into fast moving traffic. Maybe this is a place for speed bumps.