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.”