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WA Traffic Deaths Up 11% Despite National Decrease

A panoramic view of Interstate 205 in Washington State, taken during twilight. The highway, illuminated by streetlights and the headlights of moving vehicles, curves through the landscape, creating light trails. In the foreground, various buildings and structures are visible. The scene extends to a vast expanse of trees and residential areas, with a river visible in the middle distance. In the background, snow-capped mountains rise against a clear sky.

Traffic deaths are on the rise in Washington State despite a 3.6% decrease in vehicle-related fatalities nationwide in 2023, according to recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data.

However, data from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) shows that Washington saw an alarming 11% increase in vehicle-related deaths last year. This has raised serious concerns among state officials and residents alike. This troubling trend is not new; fatal car accidents in the state have been increasing since before the COVID-19 pandemic, rising from 517 in 2019 to 596 in 2021.

Despite initial assumptions that the increase was tied to the pandemic and lockdowns, the numbers have not decreased since restrictions were lifted in 2021. Washington experienced record-high fatal car crashes in both 2022 and 2023, with 113 fatal crashes reported so far this year.

What factors contribute to traffic deaths in Washington?

According to WSDOT, 75% of deadly collisions in the state are linked to what the Washington Traffic Safety Commission calls "the fatal four"— impairment, speeding, distraction, and not wearing seatbelts. Among these factors, distracted driving accounted for 23% of traffic deaths in 2022. This includes any activity that diverts a driver's attention from the road, including:

  • Using a mobile phone for texting, calling, or browsing the internet.
  • Adjusting the radio, climate control, or navigation system.
  • Eating, drinking, or smoking while driving.
  • Applying makeup, shaving, or grooming.
  • Interacting with passengers or pets in a vehicle.
  • Daydreaming or focusing on thoughts unrelated to driving.

Washington State Department of Transportation's Clay Peterman says he has witnessed drivers engaging in behaviors such as reading books and shaving while behind the wheel.

Additionally, anecdotal evidence suggests drivers are becoming more aggressive on Washington's roads. Washington State Patrol Trooper John Dattilo confirmed that aggression is a real problem and may be linked to an increase in reported shootings.

How can traffic deaths in Washington be prevented?

To reduce distracted driving, the NHTSA launched a new campaign called "Put the Phone Away or Pay." This campaign targets younger drivers who are most at risk of being involved in distraction-related crashes. It also encourages law enforcement officers to be more vigilant in catching distracted drivers.

The Washington State Patrol has already reported contacting more distracted drivers this year than last. By raising awareness and increasing enforcement, the "Put the Phone Away or Pay" campaign aims to change driver behavior and reduce the number of distraction-related crashes.

Changing driving habits is a gradual process that requires sustained effort and public awareness campaigns. The success of the decades-long initiative to increase seat belt usage in the United States serves as a prime example of how persistent messaging and enforcement can lead to significant improvements in driver behavior. Some progress has already been made. For example, 91% of vehicle occupants in the U.S. wear seatbelts. However, encouraging Americans to buckle has been an effort that has taken decades to achieve.

Hurt in a crash in Southwest WA? Don't wait to get legal help

If you've been injured in a car accident, the weeks and months that follow can be challenging. You could be faced with medical expenses, lost wages, and the painstaking insurance claims process. An experienced car accident attorney at The Scott Law Firm, PLLC in Vancouver, WA, can help you understand your rights, build a strong case, and fight for the maximum compensation you may deserve.

Attorney Colin Scott is dedicated to helping car accident victims seek the justice they need to move forward with their lives. With years of experience and a deep understanding of Washington State's traffic laws and civil justice system, he can review the details of your case, estimate the total damages you may have suffered, and develop a strategy to pursue the best possible outcome. Contact us online or call us today for a free consultation, and take the first step toward protecting your rights.

"Mr. Scott did an outstanding job handling my case. He is thorough, compassionate, and truly cares about his clients." - Former Client.

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