OLYMPIA, Wash. — Deaths on Washington state's roads hit a 20-year high last year, according to the Traffic Safety Commission.
In 2021, 663 fatalities were reported. Preliminary data for 2022 indicates the trend will continue to increase, with more deaths in the first quarter of this year compared to the same time last year.
Washington State Patrol Sgt. Darren Wright said things like speeding and distracted driving are often to blame and make the crashes more severe.
"It's basic physics, the faster you go the more damage that's going to be incurred and the more risk of a fatal collision or serious injury goes with that," Wright said.
The Commission is launching a public education campaign this summer in an effort to reduce the number of deaths on the road.
“The increase in deaths on our roads is tragic, but we all have the power to reverse the trend,” said Mark McKechnie, director of external relations for the Safety Commission. “We can turn the tide and make this a safe summer. Most of us use roads safely, and we can also influence the smaller number of people who engage in risky behavior. Take an extra step and help someone close to you be safe, too. It’s as simple as reminding them to buckle their seat belt or put their phone away when they drive.”
The "Together We Get There" ad campaign will promote will push a "community-based approach" to accomplishing its goal.
“Research shows that reinforcing safe behavior with someone you know can influence them to change,” said McKechnie. “Community involvement and a willingness to encourage others to be safe will save lives on our roads.”
A similar approach was done by the Utah Department of Public Safety. That campaign targeted counties in that state with the lowest seatbelt use. The program achieved an approximate 20% average increase in seatbelt use between 2012-2019.