Pedestrian deaths in Washington declined in 2022, report finds

New data suggest the state is bucking an upward trend in fatalities nationwide.

By: - June 22, 2023 2:07 pm

(Getty Images)

While pedestrian deaths rose by 1% from 2021 to 2022 across the country, Washington state’s pedestrian fatalities dropped by nearly 10%, from 141 deaths in 2021 to 130 deaths in 2022. However, the state is still seeing more pedestrian deaths than in 2019 and 2020. 

The report, from the Governors Highway Safety Association, relies on state data. It comes after a December 2022 report from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission that suggested the state’s 2022 traffic deaths overall would increase to the highest number of fatalities recorded since the 1990s. 

A map showing which states show increased traffic fatalities in 2022. Washington State is grey, indicating that it is not a state where traffic fatalities have increased. (Governors Highway Safety Association)

The national report praises a Washington law that allows the state Department of Transportation to establish a maximum speed limit of 20 mph on non-arterial state highways without the red tape involved in other states. State law also allows local authorities to set 20 mph speed limits on certain roadway types. 

While pedestrian advocates say slowing cars down is always good for pedestrians, they don’t believe it’s enough. Streets should be designed with pedestrians in mind, said Mike McGinn, former mayor of Seattle and executive director of America Walks, an advocacy group for walkable communities. 

Adding bus lanes, expanding protected bike lanes, improving sidewalks — these are all things local officials are clamoring for, McGinn said. “But so much of the funding from the Legislature still goes to highway expansion,” he added.

The data projects 7,508 pedestrians across the country were killed in traffic crashes in 2022, marking the highest number of pedestrian deaths since 1981. From 2010 to 2022, pedestrian deaths across the United States rose 77%.

The report suggests the nationwide increase in fatalities can be attributed to three states: Arizona, Virginia and Oregon. Pedestrian fatalities decreased in 26 states and the District of Columbia, which the report calls an “encouraging sign that the deadly trend is slowing and may even be reversing” despite “troubling data” suggesting that risky driving behaviors increased in 2021.

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Grace Deng
Grace Deng

Grace Deng joined the Washington State Standard shortly after graduating from Northwestern University in June 2023. Grace, who currently lives in Tacoma, is a local Washingtonian who was born and raised in Snohomish County. She has previous experience covering statehouse politics and policy for the Minnesota Reformer and the USA TODAY Ohio Network, which includes the Columbus Dispatch, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Akron-Beacon Journal.