Safe driving (and walking) tips as cold snap continues

Snow covers Main Street Sunday morning. (Photo by Larry Vogel)

With continued freezing temperatures causing slick roads, and predictions of more snow in the forecast, Edmonds police have some safety tips for both drivers and pedestrians.

Police have been busy responding to traffic-related calls, said Acting Assistant Chief Shane Hawley. “On the first day after the snowfall (Sunday), we had 11 reported collisions between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m.,” although it’s likely that many others went unreported. There were a combined 40 “traffic complaint” calls Sunday and Monday — the majority for “blocking (stuck) vehicles, reports of icy roads or other traffic-related concerns,” Hawley said.

“It is unusual for the temperatures to stay this cold, for this long,” Hawley added. “Ice is a huge concern moving forward and more snow is forecast this week.”

His advice? “Stay off the roads unless you really need to go out. If you do need to travel, plan your route ahead of time. The main arterial roadways tend to get more attention from the snow plows. Try to stick to them as much as possible, even if it takes you out of your way. Think ahead about hills along your route.  Again, you may need to change up your normal route to avoid them.”

All-wheel drive, Hawley added, “is not guarantee that you won’t lose traction or end up in a bad spot. It helps, but you still need to slow down and take it easy. Increase your following distances greatly and start slowing down for intersections well in advance. Having really good snow tires is every bit as important as all-wheel drive. Your tires are the first part of the traction equation.”

The police spokesperson also had advice for pedestrians trying to navigate icy sidewalks and roadways. “It’s important to be mindful that every car around you is not operating at its best,” Hawley said. “They have reduced traction, can’t stop as quickly and depending on the conditions, the driver likely has reduced visibility. It’s better to wait for cars to go, instead of crossing in front of them if possible.”

Snohomish County Public Works, which provides maintenance for unincorporated county roads, also had some helpful tips:

– Residents who shovel their driveway should move the snow to the left when looking at their home from the street and keep the snow out of the road if possible. This helps the snowplows avoid pushing the material back into the driveways.

– Before heading out, check their travel routes and options. For those venturing through unincorporated Snohomish County, visit the Public Works Snow and Ice webpage for road closure information and more. The county’s new snow removal and anti-icing map shows which routes are primary and secondary and allows residents to see what county roads have been recently plowed, sanded or had anti-icing applied.

(Edmonds residents can check the city’s priority snow maps here.)

– Give snowplows and deicer equipment plenty of room to work. Allow for a minimum following distance of 200 feet.

– If you must pass, take extreme caution and beware of the displaced snow and ice, or sand spray.

– Vehicles parked along all major arterials and emergency routes must be moved off the street. Those vehicles left in the travel lane of a roadway and blocking traffic may be towed at the owner’s expense. It is recommended for vehicles to be moved when snow is in the forecast. Parking vehicles in the driveway and off the road helps the snowplows finish routes more quickly and efficiently.

– Keep drainage inlets near your home clear of leaves and debris during the winter months to help reduce the chance of flooding.

– Try to keep garbage bins and other obstacles out of the street when the roads are icy or covered with snow.

– Obey road closed signs.

13 Replies to “Safe driving (and walking) tips as cold snap continues”

  1. Best to stay home, never worth the risk. If you lived in the Midwest with 2 feet of snow, it would be much safer.

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  2. I’ve been searching the city website but can’t seem to find any confirmation on what the rules are for homeowners to clear the sidewalks and when… does anyone have a link to point me to, by chance?

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      1. And here is language from the municipal code:

        9.20.050 Responsibility and duty to repair, maintain and reconstruct sidewalk.

        It shall be the responsibility and duty of the abutting property owner to maintain, repair and reconstruct sidewalks adjacent thereof; provided, however, the city shall maintain, repair and reconstruct sidewalks adjacent to double-fronted lots along the higher classified arterials at the locations set forth on the following Schedule I:

        Schedule I

        1. The west side of 100th Avenue West adjacent to Lots 3 through 9 of the plat of Sea Crest;

        2. The west side of 100th Avenue West adjacent to Lots 14, 15 and 16, plat of Michielli Park;

        3. The west side of 100th Avenue West adjacent to Lots 3, 4, 6 and 7, plat of Twin View Estates, Division 2;

        4. The east side of 100th Avenue West adjacent to Lots 1 through 7, plat of Twin View Estates, Division A;

        5. The west side of 76th Avenue West adjacent to Lots 23 through 32, plat of Dellwood Village;

        6. The west side of 76th Avenue West adjacent to Lots 4 through 8, plat of Helen McKinley Park. [Ord. 3116 § 1, 1996; Ord. 3101 § 1, 1996].

        9.20.010 Definitions.

        For the purpose of this chapter, certain words and terms used are defined as set forth below:

        A. “Concrete curbs and gutters” means that portion of the roadway edge constructed to city standards.

        B. “Maintenance” means the removal and disposal of debris, litter and vegetation which tends to impair the utilization of the right-of-way for public purposes and the removal of ice and snow from sidewalks.

        C. “Planting strip” means that portion of the right-of-way between the outside of the curb and the inside of the sidewalk.

        D. “Reconstruction” means the removal and disposal of broken, cracked, raised or sunken portions of the sidewalk, or broken, cracked or dislodged portions of retaining walls and rockeries lying within the right-of-way, and replacement of the removed sections with materials to match the portion on either side of the removed section in accordance with city standards.

        E. “Repair” means the removal and/or patching of small damaged portions of sidewalks, retaining walls or rockeries lying within the right-of-way, and planting strips and transition strips with like materials, each such damaged portions not exceeding one hundred fifty square inches in area shall be classified as reconstruction.

        F. “Sidewalk” means all pedestrian structures or forms of improvement for pedestrians included in the space between the street margin, as defined by a curb on the edge of the traveled road surface, and the line where the public right-of-way meets the abutting property.

        G. “Street” means street, boulevard, lane, avenue, way, alley, square, road, drive, place or public walkway.

        H. “Transition strip” means that portion of the right-of-way between the outside of the curb and the property line; or where no curb or sidewalk exists, that portion of the right-of-way between the edge of the roadside ditch or the shoulder of the road, whichever is closer to the abutting property line, and the abutting property line. [Ord. 4085 § 1 (Exh. A), 2017; Ord. 3101 § 1, 1996].

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    1. Sound Disposal sent a message out this morning that there is no garbage pickup today. Republic Services is also not picking up. Both say they will accept double loads next time at no extra charge.

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  3. In Edmonds, with a few exceptions, owners have a duty to maintain sidewalks adjacent to their property. The owners of the apartment complex where I live have not removed the snow and ice from the sidewalks adjacent to the complex. Nor have they removed the ice or snow from the parking lot.

    What about the streets? Does the city have a duty to maintain streets during or after snow storms? On Sunday, snow covered the street where I live . The city did not remove the snow, and now on Wednesday, the street is covered with ice. If the city has a duty to maintain the street, it has not met its responsibility. Some people joke our glorious city council and mayor have traded the city’s snow plow for a Zamboni.

    Based on the ice present still present on the streets and sidewalks, three days after the storm, the city has been negligent in any duty it might have maintain the street during or after snowstorms, or enforce its requirements for owners to maintain their sidewalks.

    Is it too much to ask a city to remove ice and snow on a timely basis after a storm?

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    1. Jeff – I completely agree with you about the streets. Unfortunately, in the 15 years I’ve lived here when it snows like this the streets are usually packed snow and ice until the weather melts it since the plows don’t actually get down to pavement and few, if any, chemicals are used. The city does not have (nor will they fund) adequate resources to truly clear the streets – even the “main streets.” It really makes it tough on people who depend on being able to get to work by driving and don’t have the luxury of working from home.

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  4. The walking tip in the article is a good one even in good weather. However, it’s hard to be “mindful” of cars if one walks with their backs to traffic. When there is no sidewalk, walking on the left and facing oncoming vehicles is safest (and state law)!

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  5. Hi Jeff,
    I am not so sure owners have a duty to remove snow and ice from sidewalks adjacent their property. Also, weather.com has reported that heart attacks become more of a risk during strenuous snow-clearing because blood pressure and heart rates spike while cold air constricts blood vessels and decreases the amount of oxygen received by the heart, according to Metro Health. When these factors combine and a person isn’t in peak health, shoveling can be a deadly activity.

    I made several requests of the City back in 2019 to clarify who has what duties and responsibilities. For example, I emailed former Development Services Director Shane Hope an email that started as follows on February 10, 2019:
    Ms. Hope,
    Per MRSC:
    In the Rivett v. Tacoma decision (123 Wn.2d 573 (1994)), the state supreme court invalidated Tacoma ordinance provisions that imposed liability upon abutting property owners for damages caused by defective sidewalks, regardless of fault. Tacoma’s ordinance was not based upon the statutory provisions of chapters 35.68 through 35.70 RCW. It was based upon the city’s authority as a first class city to regulate public rights-of-way, including sidewalks, and upon its nuisance authority.
    If your jurisdiction has a provision that imposes liability upon property owners for injuries caused by sidewalk conditions, particularly where there is no requirement of a finding that the property owner caused the hazardous sidewalk conditions, it is advisable to remove that provision. If you have questions about the validity of your sidewalk ordinance in light of Rivett, we suggest you contact legal counsel.

    Ms. Hope – Abutting property owners did not cause the snow and ice on sidewalks. As such, how could there ever be such a finding?

    I also informed Ms. Hope that the Assistant City Attorney of Spokane has written a detailed paper about sidewalks after Rivett. It is available on MRSC and I told her that I hoped the City looks at it closely.

    Hopefully the City will be motivated by the current snowfall to clarify who has what duties and responsibilities.

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  6. Washington Supreme Court’s ruling in Rivet, as cited above, ruled narrowly on the question of Tacoma automatically assigning liability to property owners for injury sustained on sidewalks adjacent to their property, and not on Tacoma assigning the responsibility for sidewalk maintenance to property owners.

    “If your jurisdiction has a provision that imposes liability upon property owners for injuries caused by sidewalk conditions, particularly where there is no requirement of a finding that the property owner caused the hazardous sidewalk conditions, it is advisable to remove that provision. “

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  7. Thanks Jeff,

    This is a complicated area of law which is why I attempted to seek clarity from the City back in 2019. I would hate to see somebody harmed while exerting themselves outside in very cold weather. I would hope the City would be highly motivated to make sure all understood exactly what the rules are after snow has fallen on city sidewalks.

    The article written by the Assistant City Attorney of Spokane is very detailed. It includes the following:

    The owner or occupant of abutting property is under no legal obligation to remove snow and ice from a sidewalk in front of the premises, absent proof of an act by the landowner to create or increase dangers associated with the accumulations. Ainey v. Rialto Amusement Co., 135 Wash. 56, 236 P.2d 801 (1925); Bennett v. McGoldrick-Sanderson Co., 15 Wn.2d 130, 129 P.2d 795 (1942).

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