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Impairment, speed contributed to high number of traffic deaths in Washington in 2022

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission says impaired driving and speeding are two leading causes of crashes.

SEATTLE — A recent crash on I-5 took the lives of two men in their thirties and hurt a third person. Investigators say the driver and occupants of another vehicle involved in the collision ran from the scene.

It's the latest deadly crash following a year in which the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) says far too many people died in collisions -- a spike they want to see reversed.

"We saw more fatalities in 2022 than we had seen since 1990, our initial figure is 745 people who lost their lives on Washington roads," WTSC External Relations Director Mark McKechnie said. "The one possible bright spot is we [appear to see] a slight decline in pedestrian fatalities."

WTSC says impairment likely drove 2022 numbers, along with a high rate of speeding. During the pandemic, fewer cars were on the road and more drivers were able to travel at that high rate; it appears many have not reduced the speed now that congestion has returned.

"Impairment is still the thing we're most concerned about, it's still the thing we want to reduce, partly because it involves multiple risk factors," McKechnie said. "Speed is our second highest risk factor and we also know that impaired drivers are more likely to speed; speed was involved in 31% of fatal crashes in 2021."

McKechnie says WTSC is pushing for SB 5002, to reduce the blood alcohol limit to .05, and for SB 5583, to strengthen driver's education requirements. But he says there are also measures all drivers can take: don't drive while impaired, don't give into distractions while driving, follow the speed limit and buckle up. 

"As quickly as our fatalities increased, we could decrease them through some very simple changes- obviously not driving impaired by alcohol or cannabis or other drugs is the very best thing people can do to avoid serious crashes," McKechnie said. "We need to kind of reinstate some habits that clearly were more in place pre COVID, we saw less speed, less people being impaired leading to these serious crashes- we know how to do this, we just need to remember and recommit ourselves to doing it."

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