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‘Speed kills’: Addressing Washington’s traffic death crisis

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(The Center Square) – Washington state has a goal of eliminating traffic fatalities by 2030, but for now, state officials are looking for ways to bring them down from what is currently record highs.

According to the latest data, 709 people were killed in traffic accidents last year, the most since Gov. Jay Inslee’s Results Washington Initiative began tracking those numbers.

The figure represents a 45% increase since 2019 when there were 490 fatalities. In 2013, there were 413 fatalities. The most common cause of a traffic fatality was an impaired driver, which was responsible for an estimated 339 deaths last year. A speeding driver was the second most common cause, contributing to 251 deaths.

Recently the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, or WTSC, placed speed trackers at 206 sites around Washington. Of those, 37% of drivers were going at least six miles or more over the speed limit.

“Speed kills,” Gov. Jay Inslee said at a June 28 meeting, adding that there needed to be a way “to get people to be more reasonable drivers in the state of Washington.”

According to WTSC Director Shelly Baldwin, 60% of traffic deaths occur in the eight largest counties, though she said at the June 28 meeting that the problem “reaches all parts of our state.”

“Our vision is a Washington where we all work together to travel safely on our roadways,” she said.

One potential solution the state may implement is the further use of speed cameras. Recent legislation permits local jurisdictions to install speed cameras in more locations, while a bill passed during this year’s legislative session authorizes speed cameras on state highways in work zones.

Baldwin said the speed cameras in cities are a temporary measure for work zones until “the roadway prevents them from driving too fast.”

Inslee indicated at the meeting his desire to see cameras permanently installed on highways such as Interstate 5, stating that residents shouldn’t be concerned about it when there are cameras installed in places like grocery stores and gas stations.

“[We] can’t allow this carnage to continue when we have technology that works and Washingtonians are used to in their lives,” he said.

Other possible solutions examined at the meeting concerned proper driver training for residents who wait until they’re 18 or older to avoid the instruction school requirement. Another was whether to make motorcycle training more thorough in order to obtain an endorsement.

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