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Time for a History Road Trip

02/22/2021
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Aurora Avenue Bridge under construction, 1931 (Seattle Municipal Archives)

When a Ford roadster could be purchased for $495 and fueled at 10 cents per gallon, we were already in existence as the Seattle Traffic & Safety Council, developing traffic safety programs for roads that were becoming increasingly congested. Like the road itself, we’ve gone through many changes. But one thing that has remained constant is our commitment to roadway and workplace initiatives that make our community a safer place to live, work, and play.

Ready to start

University Bridge traffic, 1927. Photo courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives, identifier #2857

In 1900

Seattle’s first automobile hit the road. It was a time of rapid development but little regulation. Traffic lights, warning signs, road markings, speed limits, standardized rules of the road, and driver’s education classes did not yet exist. As automobile ownership spiked, so did accidents that resulted in serious injuries and loss of life.

In the 1920s

60 percent of automobile fatalities nationwide involved children. Such casualties led to a public outcry and a national demand for driver training, safety initiatives, and traffic laws. Around the country, cities held “safety parades,” complete with children dressed as ghosts, to draw attention to automobile-related deaths.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

1932

It was against this backdrop that regional safety councils, including the Seattle Traffic & Safety Council, began to form throughout the country.

In our earliest days

the Council advocated for safety standards and reached out via classes and public awareness campaigns targeting motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians, as well as the general public. We were among the first in the state to offer driver’s education classes, including driving and automobile maintenance classes for women.

As part of our advocacy

we sponsored contests, brought in nationally recognized public safety experts to speak at events and forums, and issued awards to professional drivers who maintained accident-free driving records.

Early traffic control devices, 1931. Photo courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives, identifier #4778

Pioneer Square parking meters, 1947. Photo courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives, identifier #40736

At the same time

we were involved in lobbying efforts to adopt roadway safety standards, and made recommendations to city and state officials on the subject of everything from traffic signal placement to the implementation of parking meters.

During World War II

as America ramped up its production lines to support the war effort, workplace accidents and injuries skyrocketed.

In 1943

we expanded to address this issue, as well as those of home safety and fire prevention. A name change to the Seattle Safety Council signaled this broader scope of advocacy.

Library of Congress – Workers at the Boeing plant in Seattle, 1942

University Sign shop, 1958 – Item 58985

In 1954

we underwent another name change, to the Seattle-King County Safety Council, before adopting the name Evergreen Safety Council in 1971.

It reflected our mission

of promoting workplace and roadway safety, as well as a service area that encompassed the entire Pacific Northwest.

Like our name

our full slate of training and community programs has changed with the times. Offerings over the years have included programs related to boating and aviation safety, health and wellness in the workplace, personal safety and self-defense, and substance abuse awareness, among others.

In the 1990s

under the leadership of then-executive director Monty C. Lish, we developed new training and certification programs in traffic control, flagger training, pilot/escort vehicle operation (P/EVO), motorcycle training, and defensive driving. Our occupational safety, health training, and workplace compliance programs were also expanded during this time.

In 2013

we moved to our current location in Kirkland, Washington. While it was difficult to leave Seattle after 80 years, this location provides us with a full-service training facility with multimedia-equipped classrooms, a testing lab, banquet facilities, meeting space, and a paved outdoor range for motorcycle and forklift training.

The Future of Safety

Today, Evergreen Safety Council remains a leader in the safety training industry, developing and facilitating new safety training programs in response to emerging technologies and industries while remaining true to our roots in roadway and workplace safety. Offered in-person and online, our programs empower people to achieve their potential in the classroom, on the job, and on the open road.

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