Two dozen cases of debris thrown at drivers in Seattle in two weeks, spurring calls for action

Seattle is now averaging more than two cases every day with debris thrown at drivers, mostly near downtown Seattle.

Washington State Patrol, working with Seattle police, have arrested 4 people in the last couple of weeks.

Yet, another case of rocks thrown from an overpass happened just Friday morning near the Washington State Convention Center. Troopers say no one was hurt in this latest case.

But the continued surge has drivers are calling on leaders to take action to stop the crimes.

“There’s nothing I can do,” said Kristi O’Brien, who is a managing attorney at a law firm in downtown Seattle.

Drivers are getting increasingly frustrated because of these terrifying incidents.

Scooters, bikes, rebars, rocks – all sorts of debris are getting thrown at drivers from the overpass or side of the road. Some drivers have been hurt seriously enough to require treatment at the hospital.

O’Brien commutes into downtown from  Mercer Island and said she was well aware of this disturbing trend.

“Kind of looking a little bit nervously at the overpasses each time I drove into my office,” O’Brien said.

Then on Wednesday she saw a propane tank careening over Dr. Jose Rizal bridge onto the I-90 highway below. It smashed into the windshield of the driver in front of her.

“A full sized propane tank, the type you’d use for a BBQ grill,” O’Brien said. “This propane tank is bouncing around in the middle of the highway,” she said.

She said that driver pulled over and appeared to be okay.

But just two weeks ago, another attorney at her law office had a chair and a cinder block thrown at his car with his three young kids inside.

“What upsets me,” O’Brien said. “This feels like something that could be preventable. Why would you not take the steps that need to be taken and take it seriously?”

She also believes the trend is bad for business in Seattle.

“You already have people who’ve been hesitant to return to downtown, somewhat due to safety concerns, then you add this,” O’Brien said.

Washington State Patrol said on Friday that since early April, there have been 186 reported incidents of debris thrown at drivers, with most cases happening in the downtown core.

Early last week there were 161 incidents – jumping 25 cases in less than two weeks.

WSDOT says it is monitoring traffic cameras and troopers have increased patrols but O’Brien says it’s not enough.

“There is going to be an immediate safety concern until physical barriers are put up to prevent it,” she said. Other drivers have made the same suggestion.

However, WSDOT says fencing is not being considered  for many reasons.

Among the reasons, a spokesperson said it wouldn’t be an effective solution because:

  • There are too many locations where the debris are being thrown (WSP says more incidents happen from the side of the road than overpasses)
  • Objects like rocks can still be thrown over fences
  • WSDOT said they’ve had problems with people cutting fences
  • There would need to be engineering assessments to see if the overpasses could even handle the loads of installed fencing

But O’Brien says something does need to change.

“I don’t pretend to have the answers, I just know this is an urgent safety concern,” she said.

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