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Seattle Mayor Wants Driving Tour Guides To Stop Talking And Just Focus On The Road

Charles Mickelson, owner and operator of Seattle Qwik Tour.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray wants drivers of tour vehicles to talk only when they are asked a question and when the vehicle is stopped.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray wants to cut down on distracted driving by prohibiting drivers of tour busses from talking to passengers.

The proposed ordinance would allow passengers to ask a driver questions, and a driver could talk at length if the vehicle is stopped. But, while driving, either another person would have to narrate the tour or passengers would have to listen to a recording.

Charles Mickelson who owns Seattle Qwik Tour doesn’t have the money to pay someone else to talk. He insisted his interactions with the passengers in his 20-seat van do not affect his driving.

“I’m doing something I’ve done thousands of times before. I’m paying strict attention to the traffic,” said Mickelson.

If the ordinance becomes law, Mickelson will have to make a recording of his tour to play for customers.

“Really, no one wants to hear a recorded message. They want to hear live narration” said Mickelson.

Seattle City Councilman Tim Burgess is worried that the measure is too broad.

“It covers every single kind of tour you can think of. I think we’re going to look closely at it as to see whether its scope should be narrowed. Is it attempting to address a problem that may not really exist?” wondered Burgess.

The ordinance was inspired by last September’s deadly crash on the Aurora Bridge involving a Ride the Duck vehicle and a large coach bus carrying students from North Seattle Community College. Five people were killed when the Duck Boat slammed into the side of the bus.

Since the crash, Ride the Ducks now staffs tours with a driver and another person who interacts with the passengers.

An initial report from the National Transportation Safety Board on what caused September’s tragedy makes no mention of distracted driving. The report cites a failed left front axle on the duck boat.


Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.