Driving Tips for Getting Around Downtown Seattle Safely and Efficiently
Seattle is a beautiful, vibrant city with a lot to offer locals and visitors alike. From craft breweries to museums, there is something for everybody. The process of getting to and driving through Seattle can be tricky, due to the usual challenges associated with big city driving, along with some uniquely local difficulties and terrain such as Lake Washington. Use these safe driving tips to help prepare you for your next trip to the city.
Allow Time for Traffic
The traffic in Seattle is famously bad. It’s ranked the 6th worst in the United States. When you plan your drive into the downtown area, make sure to give yourself extra time to allow for packed lanes and slow-moving traffic. Fridays and the weekends can be especially busy. Get your vehicle inspected for the most common car problems before you visit to avoid having car trouble in the middle of a busy road.
Keep an Eye Out for One-Way Streets
Like most big cities, Seattle has its fair share of one-way streets. Before you start your drive, try to map your route out ahead of time and note the streets that only go one way. With practice, you can become familiar with them, but you’ll need to scope them out first. For example, Madison and Pine are one-way westbound streets. Missing a turn because of an unexpected one-way street can add several minutes to your drive, especially with traffic, so be vigilant and listen to your GPS.
Be Prepared for the Weather
Although Seattle has a generally mild climate, it does rain often in the area. Visitors from other, sunnier states will want to prepare for lots of wet roads. Following in the tracks left by the car in front of you can help with traction. The area only gets about 6 inches of snow per year, so thick snow on the ground is unlikely for your visit. However, if you plan to visit in the height of winter, make sure you either know how to drive safely on icy streets or plan another way to get around. Rideshares and public transportation are always an option. Above all, make sure to stay safe and keep other drivers safe.
Embrace the Grid City Plan
One of the benefits of driving in Seattle is the clean, grid-like city plan that minimizes confusion when finding your way around. The obstacles mentioned above may still trip you up, but a lack of confusing, winding streets will help you stay on track. Remembering that streets generally run east to west, while avenues run north to south will help you navigate.
Be Mindful of Steep Hills
The city of Seattle is built on rolling hills so it’s paramount to be mindful of the steep hills around town. Make sure to leave roll-back space between you and the car in front of you when driving on hilly streets. Hopefully, fellow drivers will do the same for you. Don’t forget to turn your wheels towards the curb when parking on hills to better protect your vehicle from rolling.
Know the New State Route Tunnel Exits
You may be familiar with the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which used to lead into downtown Seattle. As of January 2019, it has been demolished and replaced by a State Route 99 tunnel. The SR-99 tunnel will have off-ramps and on-ramps further north and south than the previous route, so make sure to account for this change the next time you visit if you plan to use this toll road. The tunnel is meant to help circumvent traffic, so give it a try if you want to avoid some of the packed streets above ground.
Follow Driving Rules to Avoid Tickets
If you are visiting the area from out of state, brush up on the local laws that affect drivers. Texting and holding the phone while driving is both prohibited and can land you a stiff ticket. You are allowed to make a left turn on a red light, provided you are turning from a one-way street onto another one-way street. A right turn on red is also permitted if traffic allows.
For a smooth, safe drive in Downtown Seattle, make sure to have your car inspected and maintained. Visit Greg’s Japanese Auto in the Puget Sound to get your car primed and ready to make sharp turns, brake effectively and more.