Washington’s Traffic Safety Crisis

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) and Washington State Patrol (WSP) are sounding the alarm about the state’s worsening traffic safety crisis. We lost 750 lives in fatal collisions on Washington roads in 2022. As of July 2023, Washington has experienced more traffic deaths compared to the same time last year.

“We have seen more multi-fatality crashes in 2023, which is making this a historically deadly year,” said Shelly Baldwin, WTSC Director. “We are announcing these very preliminary figures because we need everyone’s help right now. Driving sober, driving focused, respecting speed limits, and buckling up are the four best ways to save a life,” Baldwin added.

The initial data from the WTSC show there were 417 fatalities through July 31, 2023, compared to 413 at the same point in 2022. Last year was the deadliest year on Washington roads since 1990.

While more total lives have been lost, there have been fewer deadly crash incidents so far in 2023 compared to 2022. This means deadly crashes are resulting in more deaths per crash.

Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste

“Saving lives on our highways involves everyone’s participation – and that includes passengers,” said WSP Chief John R. Batiste. “Driver decisions are an obvious factor in fatal collisions, but passengers have a duty to ensure their own safety by always choosing to buckle up. We need this disheartening trend to turn around, and we cannot do that without everyone’s participation.”

The WSP and WTSC are nearing the end of a summerlong campaign educating the public about the 90 Dangerous Days of summer. Over the past five years, the summer months have resulted in the deadliest 90-day stretch for drivers on Washington roadways. State and local law enforcement will be out and will be visible throughout the Labor Day weekend to provide an extra reminder for everyone to be safe.

Everyone who uses Washington roads can do their part to avoid the fatal four: impairment, distraction, speeding, and not wearing seat belts. All cyclists should wear helmets and other protective gear and be as visible as possible. Motorists should also watch out for pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.

Among the 750 people who tragically lost their lives in 2022 on Washington roadways, 565 deaths (75 percent) involved one or more of the fatal four behaviors.

“The power to save lives is in the hands of every driver on our roads,” Baldwin said. “Going into Labor Day and the final four months of 2023, we still have time change this trend. Please get a sober ride if you have used drugs or alcohol. Higher speeds endanger the lives of everyone, so please respect the speed limit. If we practice these simple safety behaviors each day, we can save hundreds of lives so that they will be here to enjoy the holidays with their family and friends.”


Increased motorcycle safety patrols begin July 7

OLYMPIA, WA — More motorcycles travel on Washington’s roads in the summer months than any other time of the year. Officials are concerned that fatal motorcycle crashes continue to increase in our state. In a continued effort to reduce these crashes, increased safety patrols will be visible July 7 and run through July 23 in Pierce, King, and Snohomish Counties.

The patrols will focus on illegal driving behaviors by both motorcycle riders and other vehicle drivers. Local law enforcement agencies, along with the Washington State Patrol, will be working overtime focused on drivers and riders who commit traffic safety violations.

“The increasing number of motorcycle rider deaths is very concerning and we know that we can all work to prevent these deaths,” said Shelly Baldwin, Director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. “Drivers can watch out for motorcyclists. Riders can improve their skills through training. All of us can respect speed limits and ride and drive sober.”

From 2018 through 2022, motorcycles made up just 3 percent of the registered vehicles on Washington’s roads but accounted for 16 percent of all traffic fatalities (492 of 3,076). In 2022 alone, preliminary data shows 132 motorcycle rider fatalities in Washington, possibly the most in a single year in our state’s history. This was a 43 percent increase over 2021.

While about two-thirds of fatal motorcycle crashes involved another vehicle, illegal and dangerous actions by the rider including speeding, losing control in corners and curves, improper passing, and riding under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs were the main contributing factors cited in these crashes.

“Summer events can bring thousands of people together from across our state,” Baldwin added. “We want to ensure that everyone enjoys the journey and arrives back home safely.”

In June 2022, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a study supporting the effectiveness of law enforcement patrols in reducing unsafe driving behavior and crashes. The WTSC and participating law enforcement agencies condemn profiling. Trained and commissioned law enforcement officers will be conducting these patrols enforcing traffic violations as defined by Washington State laws.

For training and safety videos, gear recommendations, and other information on Washington’s motorcycle safety program, please visit https://www.ridesaferideon.com/.

These and all extra law enforcement patrols sponsored by WTSC are part of Target Zero—striving to end traffic deaths and serious injuries on Washington’s roadways. For more information, visit www.targetzero.com. Additional information on the Washington Traffic Safety Commission can be found on the website, www.wtsc.wa.gov.



Source: WTSC Research and Data Division:

Year Total Traffic Fatalities Motorcycle Fatalities Percentage of Total
2018 539 80 15%
2019 538 95 18%
2020 574 93 16%
2021 675 92 14%
2022 (preliminary) 750 132 18%
Totals 3,076 492 16%

For journalists on word choice:

A “crash” or “collision” happens when a vehicle collides with another object. Using the word “accident” assumes it was a bizarre occurrence that no one could have stopped, when in fact the circumstances leading up to 90 percent of car crashes are predictable and preventable. WTSC is seeing and hearing “crash” or “collision” in the news more often lately and wants to thank journalists who are making this insightful choice.


Washington Traffic Safety Commission to increase seat belt patrols beginning May 15

OLYMPIA — Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) supports annual law enforcement campaigns to increase seat belt use. This year’s campaign will be May 15 through June 4. Seat belt use plays a critical role in reducing the severity of traffic-related injuries and remains a national and Washington state priority. Since 2015, approximately one in five fatalities were unrestrained vehicle occupants. Early 2022 estimates suggest an upward trend in fatal and serious crashes involving unrestrained occupants.

Following a slight decrease from 94.2% to 93.9% in seat belt use among Washingtonians in 2022, the upcoming seat belt patrol aims to increase seat belt use and prevent traffic-related injuries and fatalities. “Our goal is not to write more tickets but to remind drivers of the importance of seat belt use and to ensure safety for everyone on the road,” said Mark McKechnie, External Relations Director at WTSC.

In order to help people remember to buckle up and avoid a ticket, WTSC is running their “However You Say It” campaign, which uses easy and friendly examples to help remind everyone to buckle up. A Spanish-language campaign, “Loteria,” will also run. These ads will air on social media, TV and radio, and video and audio streaming services in an effort to underscore this message throughout the state.

McKechnie shared, “Most Washingtonians buckle up when they’re on the road. And it’s easy to remind the people you ride with to do it, too. You never know when that simple reminder could save a life.”

For more information about seat belt use in Washington state, explore WTSC’s 2022 report or visit https://www.togetherwegetthere.com/seat-belts/.



2022 Saw Most Traffic Deaths on Washington Roads Since 1990

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission’s (WTSC) initial data for 2022 shows the greatest number of deaths on Washington roads and highways since 1990. Preliminary reports show that 745 people were killed in crashes last year.

Impairment by drugs and alcohol is involved in more than half of fatal crashes. According to a December 2022 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Alcohol-involved crashes resulted in 14,219 fatalities, 497,000 nonfatal injuries, and $68.9 billion in economic costs in 2019….” Continue Reading 2022 Saw Most Traffic Deaths on Washington Roads Since 1990

Alcohol or drug-positive drivers in fatal crashes, 2017-2021

We All Play a Role in Getting Everyone Home for the Holidays

Each year, the holidays bring friends, families, and loved ones together. However, for too many families, this time of year is also a stark reminder of those who are missing from the celebrations. As of the end of October this year, there were 639 people in Washington who died in traffic crashes, and whose chairs will be empty at holiday gatherings. “Traffic fatalities reached a 20-year high in 2021, and preliminary data through October shows that there have been 15% more deaths so far in 2022, compared to the first 10 months of 2021,” said Mark McKechnie from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC). “Every year, more than half of traffic fatalities involve impaired drivers.” Continue Reading We All Play a Role in Getting Everyone Home for the Holidays

Washington Traffic Deaths Reach 20-Year High

Young Refugees Take a Seat for Traffic Safety