The sad news today of the fatal bus collision with a “Ride the Duck” vehicle is perhaps most tragic in its likely predictability. The North Seattle College students and staff and the Seattle Ride the Duck passengers were navigating one of Seattle’s most dangerous bridges in which high-speed oncoming traffic is not separated by any barrier. In addition to the obvious questions raised about the driver of the Duck vehicle and the its maintenance and operation (including functioning and properly maintained steering, brakes and tires), the number of other similar incidents on this particular stretch of roadway raises serious questions about the State DOT and other agency’s traffic safety review and response systems. The particular construction of this roadway should have, and likely could have, protected travelers better; the agencies responsible for its maintenance and operation will likely have serious questions to answer in the future, as well as an obligation to ensure that preventable tragedies like this do not continue to occur.
While future transportation issues and efficient procedures for clearing minor wrecks involving property damage are important, they pale in comparison to the primary obligation to identify and adequately design, warn and protect drivers from the most dangerous portions of our highways; especially when the costs of failure to do so are not simply inconvenience but rather loss of human life.
Our deepest condolences and sympathies to those affected by this tragedy.