Washington for the year saw 540 fatal crashes, which killed more than 600 people, according to data from the Washington State Department of Transportation. Not since 2006 have the numbers been that high. In 118 of the year’s fatal crashes, a bicyclist or pedestrian was killed. An additional 2,411 crashes in 2021 resulted in likely serious injury — also the most since 2006 and 16% more than in 2020.
Alcohol- and drug-influenced serious and fatal crashes remained high in 2021, sustaining a harrowing 25% jump from 2019 to 2020. Speed, too, continued to play an outsized role after climbing nearly 18% in 2020.
Kroman reports that in Seattle, 31 people were killed in car crashes in 2021, according to preliminary data from the Seattle Department of Transportation. That, too, is the most since 2006. Jim Curtain, project development director at SDOT, said 19 of those deaths were pedestrians, and nearly half involved hit-and-runs. The city has also seen a jump in impaired driving, Curtain said.
INTERPRETING THE DATA
Kroman reports that early in the pandemic, reports from state troopers suggested behavior behind the wheel had become more extreme. There was a rise of speed-related crashes and so-called “aggressive drivers.” As the roads emptied, drivers could more easily hit triple digits on their speedometers. Combined with a rise in alcohol and drug use, collisions that may have been moderate in 2019 became serious or deadly in 2020.
As traffic returns, 2021’s picture is less obvious. Speed and distraction are almost certainly at the trend’s core, said Mark Hallenbeck, director of the Washington State Transportation Center at the University of Washington. But there’s another, more nebulous cause that’s even more difficult to track.
“We have a pissed-off society . . . When you are in your big metal box of a car, you have an awful lot of ability to act out your frustrations both with accelerator and brake.” ~Mark Hallenbeck, director of the Washington State Transportation Center
HOW WASHINGTON COMPARES
Washington’s 6% rise in serious and fatal crashes from 2019 to 2020 was close to average for the country that year, which saw a national 7% spike, according to the National Safety Council. Maine, Arkansas and Washington, D.C., experienced the sharpest jumps, each over 30%. Rhode Island saw a 24% increase.
My opinion? The stressors of 2020-21 — isolation, uncertainty, fear — remain. And with them comes an environment still conducive to risk, substance abuse and high speeds. Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a DUI, Reckless Driving or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.