Washington Traffic Fatalities Rise in 2022

There were 745 traffic-related fatalities for 2022 in Washington State. This growth was worse than national averages and is the most fatalities our state has seen since 1990. Clearly, we are trending in the wrong direction. In response to this data, Washington State legislators have proposed several measures. However, it’s also important that we all take stock of our own driving habits and work to make the roads safer for everyone.

In our post today, we’ll briefly look at:

  • What’s causing the increase in traffic-related fatalities?
  • Proposed action the State is considering.
  • Steps you can take to reduce your risk of a serious collision.

Washington Car Crash Fatality Statistics

For the last several years, crash fatalities have been increasing in Washington State. This is despite the Target Zero plan we have in place to bring the total number of traffic-related serious injuries and fatalities to zero by 2030.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • Alcohol and drug use are a factor in at least 33% of crash fatalities in our state.
  • 2022 is the 4th consecutive year of increased crash fatalities.
  • High speeds were involved in at least 30% of crash fatalities.
  • Many fatal collisions occurred at very late at night or early in the morning, not during rush hour or other peak times.

These findings come from the Washington Traffic Safety Commision and an analysis by AAA.

Preliminary 2023 Washington Car Crash Fatality Data

As of early December 2023, there have been 620 reported fatality crashes in Washington State and 6,200 serious injury crashes (source: WSDOT).

Unfortunately, this number is only likely to increase and add to the grim upward trend of fatality crashes in our state.

What’s Causing the Increase?

We’ve mentioned some risky driving behaviors that are associated with crash fatalities. These include speeding, intoxication, and distraction. Yet, these don’t tell the whole story. Many states saw decreases in their crash fatalities last year.

An article published on the Columbian in January 2023 hinted that it may take researchers months before the data is fully analyzed. Some additional observations about Washington’s sobering data include:

  • Speed-related fatalities increased during the pandemic. Many speculate this was due to emptier roads. But now that drivers have largely returned to their commutes, we’re not seeing a reduction.
  • Infrastructure could be part of the problem. Many accidents occur on wide roads that run through busy communities. We’re also seeing increased collisions with pedestrians and bicyclists, particularly in urban areas where trails and walkways don’t exist.
  • Hit-and-run accidents are increasing. Unfortunately, more at-fault drivers are failing to stay at the scene of the accident.
  • Unlicensed drivers causing accidents are increasing. There has been a significant jump in the number of drivers with expired licenses causing wrecks.

The problem is both complex and evolving. We’ll make sure to update this post as new information comes to light.

Washington May Reduce the Legal BAC Limit from 0.08 to 0.05

In response, Washington State lawmakers have proposed several bills to reduce our state’s crash fatalities. Perhaps the most talked about right now is House Bill 1874, which would lower the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level from 0.08 to 0.05. If passed into law, a driver could be charged with a DUI if their BAC is 0.05 or greater.

Currently, the only other state with a legal BAC of 0.05 is Utah. (Every other state is 0.08.) When Utah lowered their limit from 0.08 to 0.05, they experienced a 20% drop in traffic-related fatalities. According to a study published by the NHTSA, 22% of surveyed drivers in Utah admitted to changing their behaviors in direct response to the new law.

Additional Proposed Measures to Combat Traffic Fatalities

In addition, several other measures have been proposed to reduce the deaths and increase safety on our roads.

These include:

  • Adding speed enforcement ticket cameras in highway work zones.
  • Reducing right turns on red lights for many intersections.
  • Require driver’s education for all new drivers under the age of 25.
  • Offer driver’s education at no cost to low-income teens.

Some cities and counties may take additional action. For instance, in Tacoma, we lowered the speed limit from 25 to 20 mph in residential neighborhoods.

Reducing your Risk of a Serious Crash

There are some steps you can take that reduce your risk of being involved in a serious collision. Chances are that you’ve heard of most, if not all, of these. Even so, take time to review this list.

  • Drive defensively. Simply put, do your best to anticipate what other drivers are about to do and react accordingly. However, don’t assume that all drivers will follow the rules of the road. We bet you can think of a recent time when someone ran a red light or failed to signal.
  • Drive sober. You already know that it’s unsafe and illegal to drive drunk. But do you know what your BAC level is after just one or two drinks? Alcohol.org has a handy calculator to help you estimate based on your gender, body weight, and number of drinks consumed. Always err on the side of caution.
  • Follow speed limits. Drive the posted speed limits, or less if conditions or visibility are poor.
  • Wear a seatbelt. Even if you do everything right, you could still end up in a motor vehicle collision. For this reason, always wear your seatbelt! Data shows time and again that seatbelts do save lives.

Many of us have been driving years or decades and it’s easy to think we’re good drivers. But we can all use reminders and work to improve our driving habits. Additionally, if new laws and regulations get passed, we will need to adjust.

Need Free Legal Advice after a WA Crash?

Remember, we’re always here to help if you were injured in a car crash. There’s no cost to have us hear what happened and let you know if we can assist. To reach out, give us a call at 253.272.5226, or fill out the short form on our contact page.

    Get a Free Case Evaluation