Washington on track for ‘historically deadly year’ with traffic crashes

By: - August 31, 2023 3:15 pm

Traffic on Interstate 5 near Olympia. (Bill Lucia/Washington State Standard)

Last year was the deadliest on Washington roadways in over three decades. Figures released this week show this year could be worse.

Crashes claimed the lives of 417 people through July 31, according to initial data from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. During the same time frame last year, 413 people died in vehicle collisions.

Officials emphasized that the data for this year is preliminary. The statistics do show, however, that the rise in fatalities compared to last year took place even though there were fewer fatal wrecks, meaning more deaths per crash.

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission and Washington State Patrol released the data ahead of Labor Day weekend, a busy time for highway travel.

The agencies point to four factors that they say contribute to a significant number of deadly crashes: driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, distraction, speeding and not wearing seatbelts.

Of the 750 people who died on Washington roads in 2022, 565 were in crashes that involved at least one of those four elements. Last year’s traffic crash death toll was the highest in the state since 1990.

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Bill Lucia
Bill Lucia

Bill Lucia is the Standard’s editor-in-chief. He’s covered state and local policy and politics for a decade, nationwide for Government Executive’s Route Fifty and in Seattle for Crosscut.