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Washington pedestrian deaths decrease in 2022, report finds

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(The Center Square) – Washington state’s pedestrian traffic deaths decreased in 2022, bucking an upward national trend, according to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

“We hope this positive news will continue,” said Barb Chamberlain, director of the Active Transportation Division for the Washington State Department of Transportation. “That will rely on all the transportation agencies continuing to make the changes that improve conditions.”

The state saw 14 fewer pedestrian traffic deaths in 2022 than in 2021, with the number falling from 144 to 130. This is still higher than the number of such deaths in 2019 and 2020 but runs counter to a trend of consecutive increases each year from 2019 to 2021.

“One year’s downturn doesn’t create a trend,” Chamberlain said.

Washington’s decrease in pedestrian traffic deaths flies against the national trend, which saw pedestrian traffic deaths reaching nearly 7,508 in 2022, according to the report.

“This continues the upward trend that the United States has been experiencing for decades and represents the highest number of pedestrian deaths since 1981,” the report reads. “State and national data confirm that the pedestrian safety crisis on U.S. roads is worsening.”

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission is aiming to eliminate the state’s traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030 with its Target Zero plan, though 2022 brought the highest number of Washington’s overall traffic deaths since 1990, according to the agency.

Chamberlain, however, said recent Washington policies may have helped protect pedestrians. Seattle finished lowering its citywide speed limits in 2021 with support from WSDOT, and other cities like Bellevue have invested in speed management.

“This is a really critical change that reduces the force the driver’s vehicle carries into the impact,” Chamberlain said.

She said cities could improve safety with measures like “leading pedestrian intervals,” which Seattle and Spokane have done, giving pedestrians a head start at crosswalks.

“The people crossing are thus farther out in the crosswalk and more visible to drivers who might otherwise think they can make a turn into the crosswalk,” Chamberlain said.

She also said cities can invest in infrastructure like sidewalks. The state legislature has invested more in the Safe Routes to School Program and pedestrian and bicycle program grants, and Chamberlain said the state would be awarding a “record level” of grants starting July 1.

“Where there’s no sidewalk, a pedestrian has no choice but to be in the roadway,” she said.

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee is meeting on June 28 with officials to discuss improving Washington’s traffic safety, according to a news release.

“Stakeholders will provide an overview of policy priorities to increase traffic safety,” the news release reads. “They will also discuss research proposals to better understand the variables that can cause vehicle and motorcycle collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists.”

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