An 81-year-old woman died Monday night crossing Aurora Avenue North, where at least four people have lost their lives this year.

The pedestrian was in the 9800 block of Aurora, at about 7:25 p.m. One vehicle was stopped, but a southbound tow-truck driver passed in another lane. The woman stepped out and the truck hit her, witnesses told Seattle police. Paramedics tried to revive her, but she was declared dead at the scene.

The King County Medical Examiner identified the woman Wednesday as Maria Avelar.

Traffic collision detectives have taken over the investigation. The 28-year-old tow-truck driver cooperated and showed no signs of impairment, police said.

Traffic Lab is a Seattle Times project that digs into the region’s thorny transportation issues, spotlights promising approaches to easing gridlock, and helps readers find the best ways to get around. It is funded with the help of community sponsors Alaska Airlines, Kemper Development Co., NHL Seattle, PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company and Seattle Children’s hospital. Seattle Times editors and reporters operate independently of our funders and maintain editorial control over Traffic Lab content.

This type of tragedy is known as a double-threat incident — and is a major reason the Seattle Department of Transportation has scraped away marked four-lane crosswalks, or instituted “road diets” that reduce four-lane arterials to one lane each direction.

Aurora is six lanes wide and carries more than 35,000 vehicles daily, including buses, near North 98th Street. The intersection where the woman was struck lacks a traffic signal and marked crosswalks, although by law all intersections are defined as unmarked crosswalks.


Monday’s death comes after an August crash just a half-mile south that killed Connie Rodrigues, a 56-year-old pedestrian, at North 85th Street and Aurora. In the first half of this year, seven fatal or serious-injury crashes occurred on Aurora alone, Seattle Department of Transportation data shows.

Since then, at least two other people were seriously wounded on Aurora – a 71-year-old man hit by a driver walking across at North 85th Street in mid-August; and University of Washington student Bergen Fuglestad, struck last month by a car that veered off Aurora, while Fuglestad was running on a nearby path in Green Lake Park.

Citywide, 98 serious crashes killed 10 people during that time period.

Washington was the first state to adopt Vision Zero, a pledge to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030, yet 546 people died in collisions statewide last year, new data says. Seattle and Washington state show downward trends in motorist deaths, but pedestrian deaths have risen.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Tuesday released 2018 data showing a 2.4 percent decline in deaths nationwide, to a total 36,560 people killed. Alcohol- and speeding-related fatalities decreased.

The agency credits safer car designs and crash-avoidance technology, and the U.S. is on track for another 3.4 percent decline in 2019. However, pedestrian fatalities increased 3.4 percent last year to 6,283 nationally, while 857 bicyclists died.

This post was updated with information from the King County Medical Examiner, including the age of the victim, as the age initially provided by police was incorrect.