Dec 14, 2022 - News

Washington traffic deaths on track to hit 25-year high

Washington traffic fatalities, by year
Data: Washington Traffic Safety Commission ; Note: As of Oct. 31, 2022; Chart: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

Traffic fatalities skyrocketed in Washington this year to a level not seen in a quarter century, according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC).

Driving the news: WTSC officials gave lawmakers a grim report at a hearing Tuesday, noting that serious injury and fatality crashes increased both of the past two years.

By the numbers: There were 600 fatal crashes in the state by the end of October, a 9% increase over the three-year average, WTSC spokesperson Mark McKechnie told Axios.

  • With winter weather and an anticipated increase in impaired driving over the holidays, WTSC expects the number to reach or top 700 by year's end.
  • The last time we had that many traffic fatalities in a single year was in 1996 when Washington recorded 712 car crash deaths, McKechnie said. Washington saw the sixth-highest surge in 2022 traffic deaths among U.S. states.
  • Seattle had 30 traffic deaths in 2021, a 16-year-high, and 11 fatal injuries in the first five months of 2022, according to a Seattle Department of Transportation report.

What they found: Speeding is often accompanied by drunk or impaired driving, he added, noting that impaired drivers are also less likely to wear seatbelts.

  • Overall, more than half of all fatal crashes in Washington involve an impaired driver, WTSC data shows. Alcohol impairment specifically was responsible for 30%.

What we're watching: State Sen. John Lovick, a former state trooper, is proposing a bill to lower the legal blood alcohol driving level, from .08 to .05.

  • WTSC has not taken a position on the bill, but expects to present legislators with data from Utah — the only state in the U.S. to make such a change — and other countries that shows lower blood alcohol content laws reduce impaired driving and the crashes that result from it, McKechnie said.
  • WTSC is also asking lawmakers to find a way to make driver's education financially accessible to all teens in an effort to reduce the number of crashes among young drivers in Washington.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Seattle.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Seattle stories


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Seattle.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more