[Study] Where are Washington Pedestrians at Highest Risk of Being Struck by Vehicles?
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[Study] Where are Washington Pedestrians at Highest Risk of Being Struck by Vehicles?

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Posted on November 17, 2023


Nearly 8,000 American pedestrians died in car crashes in 2021, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The year before that, more than 100,000 pedestrians were treated in emergency rooms across the country for non-fatal injuries sustained in motor vehicle collisions.

Increasing pedestrian safety is a major component of the “Vision Zero” campaigns adopted by Seattle, Bellevue, and other state and local governments all over the United States.

To better understand how much of an issue pedestrian crashes are in Washington, we analyzed records from approximately 15,000 motor vehicle crashes involving pedestrians between 2017 and 2022, pulled from the Washington State Patrol’s Collision Analysis Tool.


  • Crashes have been increasing statewide since dropping in 2020 due to the pandemic. But while most crashes have not quite reached 2019 levels yet, the deadliest pedestrian crashes have already surpassed pre-pandemic numbers and appear to be on a steady rise.
  • The Puget Sound area is the state’s pedestrian crash hotbed, even after adjusting for county population. King County has nearly four times as many pedestrian crashes over the observation period as any other locality.
  • Accounting for the number and severity of crashes, the intersection of Highway 99 and 238th Street Southwest in Edmonds is perhaps the most dangerous place to be a pedestrian in Washington.
  • Washington cuts against typical patterns with regard to when crashes happen, with fewer crashes from March–July and more from November–January.

Are pedestrian crashes increasing in Washington?

Pedestrian crashes, which account for about 2% of all motor vehicle collisions in Washington, have followed a similar trend to non-pedestrian crashes in the state and crashes across the country in recent years. They fell significantly in 2020 when traffic was decreased by COVID-19 lockdowns, and while they started to climb again in 2021 and 2022, they have not quite returned to pre-pandemic levels.

But a darker picture looms under the surface. Pedestrian crashes that caused serious injury or death decreased in 2020, but at a much smaller rate than other crashes, and they have accelerated past pre-pandemic levels — and they appear to still be rising.

These serious or fatal crashes accounted for just over 18% of all pedestrian crashes in Washington in 2017, 2018, and 2019, but have spiked to more than 25.4% by 2022.

Where are pedestrian crashes happening in Washington?

When comparing crash counts across different regions, the areas in and around large cities tend to have the largest numbers of collisions. They have the most people and the most daily vehicle traffic, so a comparatively high volume of crashes is to be expected. That pattern holds in Washington, where the 10 counties with the most pedestrian crashes are also the state’s 10 most populated counties (though not in exact 1–10 order).

But when you account for county population by measuring the number of crashes per 100,000 residents, smaller localities often jump to the top of the ranking. In Washington, though, the larger counties are still at the top of the list; the four most populous counties are also the counties with the four highest pedestrian crash rates, and Whitman County — which has the 10th-highest crash rate — is the only county in the top 10 that has below the median population.

King County has more than twice as many people as any other county in the state, at nearly 2.3 million, but it also has close to four times as many crashes per year, which keeps its population-adjusted rate high.

We also used the street names in the data to determine the 20 most dangerous intersections for pedestrians in Washington, as roughly half of the pedestrian crashes in WSP’s data set occurred at intersections.

All but one are located in King or Snohomish counties, with the outlier located in Vancouver, in Clark County.

The most dangerous places for pedestrians in Washington

Rank Primary Street Intersecting Street City Fatal + Serious Crashes Total Crashes Danger Score*
1 Hwy 99 238th St SW Edmonds 6 11 51
2 172nd St NE Smokey Point Blvd Arlington 2 12 40
3 Aurora Ave N N 125th St Seattle 5 7 39
4 Rainier Ave S S Bayview St Seattle 3 10 39
5 Rainier Ave S S Henderson St Seattle 4 10 36
6 Pacific Hwy S S 240th St Kent 4 6 33
7 International Blvd S 176th St SeaTac 3 6 32
8 Pacific Hwy S S 312th St Federal Way 3 7 30
9 128th St SW 8th Ave W Everett 2 6 29
10 International Blvd S 188th St SeaTac 2 7 25
11 SE 312th St 124th Ave SE Auburn 2 6 24
11 SE Mill Plain Blvd SE Chkalov Dr Vancouver 1 6 24
13 State Ave Grove St Marysville 1 7 22
14 Auburn Way N 8th St NE Auburn 1 6 21
14 156th Ave NE NE 15th St Bellevue 0 7 21
16 128th St SW 4th Ave W Everett 1 7 20
17 SE Everett Mall Way 7th Ave SE Everett 0 7 19
18 5th Ave Marion St Seattle 0 6 18
19 Broadway E Union St Seattle 1 6 17
19 E Casino Rd Evergreen Way Everett 0 7 17

*Danger Score = total crashes + (fatal crashes * 10) + (serious crashes * 5) + (minor crashes * 2).

When are these crashes happening?

Most analyses of pedestrian crash data find that crashes peak during the spring and summer months, when pleasant weather encourages more foot traffic.

But Washington goes against that pattern. The largest numbers of crashes at every severity level are January, November, and December, while crashes bottom out from April through June.

Crashes are also at their lowest on the weekend, although Friday is the most common day of the week for fatal pedestrian crashes — which may speak to the increased danger of being out on the street as a pedestrian when your inhibitions and reaction time have been lowered by alcohol.

The most common time of day for crashes is between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., when evening commute traffic is at its peak.

Data sources and methodology

In this analysis, we used data on pedestrian-involved crashes from the Washington State Patrol’s Collision Analysis Tool.

Feel free to use the data from this study, but if you do, please link back to this page for attribution purposes.