Category Archives: Reckless Driving

Deadly Vehicular Crash Data in Whatcom County

Motorcyclist dies after collision with car in Bellingham - YouTube

Bellingham Herald Journalist Robert Mittendorf reports that deadly car crashes fell by half in Bellingham last year. These levels return to pre-pandemic levels after a two-year spike. Four people died in crashes within Bellingham city limits last year, down from eight traffic deaths in 2022 and nine in 2021, according to data from the Washington State Department of Transportation, which collects reports from police agencies statewide.

Overall there were more than 200 fewer crashes last year in Bellingham, as the total dropped from 1,136 in 2022 to 902 in 2023 — a 10-year low. WSDOT’s data system includes crashes on Interstate 5 and state highways such as Meridian Street (State Route 539) within the city limits. Factoring in only city streets, Bellingham had 527 total crashes. This is down from 709 in 2022 — also a 10-year low.

One pedestrian and no bicyclists were killed by cars in 2023. There were 23 such crashes last year as part of a steady annual decline after a high of 76 total bike and pedestrian crashes in 2017.

Bellingham’s lower fatality rate is in contrast to state and nationwide trends. Apparently,  more people in WA State died in traffic accidents as people drove faster and automakers built bigger and heavier trucks and SUVs. The death toll on roads statewide in 2023 topped a 30-year high set last year, according to WSDOT. Whatcom County crash statistics remained mostly flat, reflecting a three-year trend.

Former Mayor Seth Fleetwood made traffic safety a priority from 2020 to 2024, and Public Works has hired three new staff members in its Traffic Division, Johnston said. Bellingham will be examining the speed of cars and speed limits on city streets this year. This effort includes data collection, public education and law enforcement. On the enforcement side, one possible new measure could be speed cameras in school zones.

Even as deadly crashes in just the city of Bellingham declined last year, traffic fatalities rose slightly in Whatcom County as a whole, according to WSDOT. At total of 18 people died last year in crashes on roads of all types across Whatcom County, from city streets to Interstate 5. Two pedestrians were killed among 48 total crashes involving people walking and cycling in 2023. This represents a sharp decline from the eight pedestrian deaths in 65 total crashes in 2022 — also a 10-year low.

Traffic fatalities are tragic. Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with Vehicular Assault/Homicide, or Reckless Driving. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

WA State Patrol Kicks Off “Home For the Holidays” DUI Enforcement Campaign

Washington State Police: Home for the Holidays Traffic Safety Campaign | Local | bigcountrynewsconnection.com

Accoding to a press release, the Washington State Patrol (WSP) and the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) will work together to enforce DUI pullovers and encourage drivers to make good choices.

The “Home for the Holidays” traffic safety campaign continues now through New Years Eve. Historically, the WSP observes an increase in all collision types during this time frame, as well as an increase in impaired drivers on our roadways.

“While we can’t prevent all collisions, buckling up and slowing down, particularly in wet conditions, dramatically improve the chances that drivers and their passengers will survive a crash and avoid serious injury.” ~Shelly Baldwin, WTSC Director.

Encouraging drivers to make good choices behind the wheel is especially important considering the rise in fatality collisions across Washington state over the past several years. According to preliminary WTSC data, there have been nearly as many fatal collisions between through September 2023 (578) as compared to the same timeframe in 2022 (582). Last year was a 32-year high for fatality collisions across Washington state.

Numbers from the WTSC show 776 lives were lost across the state due to traffic related collisions in the months of October, November, and December from 2018 to 2022. Of those tragedies, 40 percent involved impaired drivers, 30 percent involved excessive speed, 16 percent involved distracted drivers, and 29 percent of those killed were pedestrians or pedal cyclists.

“Fatality collisions are preventable tragedies, and we must all do our part in order to help save lives,” said WSP Chief John R. Batiste. “Buckling up, slowing down, and driving sober can help make sure we all make it home to our loved ones for the holidays.”

Drivers are asked to checklist check road conditions before heading out.

  • Buckle up and ensure all occupants are also properly seat belted before driving;
  • Follow posted speed limits and slow down as necessary in adverse weather and around vulnerable road users, including walkers and cyclists;
  • Increase following distance, especially in adverse weather or low light conditions;
  • Always choose to drive sober;
  • Avoid distractions, such as the use of a hand-held cell phone or watching videos while driving.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with DUI, Reckless Driving or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Traffic-Related Deaths Are on the Rise

These States Have The Most Summer Driving Fatalities

This year is becoming an increasingly deadly year for traffic-related deaths on Washington roads, according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) and Washington State Patrol (WSP).

The worsening traffic safety crisis is leading to more deaths at this point in 2023 than the year before, the agencies reported on Aug. 30.

As of July, Washington saw 417 traffic-related fatalities, compared to 413 fatalities in July 2022. According to WTSC, 2022 marked the deadliest year on Washington roads since 1990.

“We have seen more multi-fatality crashes in 2023, which is making this a historically deadly year . . . 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.” ~Shelly Baldwin, Director of WTSC

Officials note the “fatal four” common causes of traffic crashes and deaths as impairment, distraction, speeding and not wearing seat belts. Among the 750 people who died on Washington roads in 2022, approximately 75% of those deaths (565 deaths) involved one or more of the fatal four behaviors, according to WTSC.

While more lives have been lost so far in 2023, WTSC says there have been fewer deadly crashes in total – which means crashes are resulting in more losses of life per crash.

“Saving lives on our highways involves everyone’s participation – and that includes passengers. 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.” ~WSP Chief John R. Batiste

The 90 Dangerous Days of Summer, a campaign educating the public, has found that summer months often are the deadliest stretch of time for drivers in Washington. Throughout Labor Day Weekend, state and local law enforcement officials will increase their presence on the roadways as a safety reminder.

“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 to 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.”

WSP also urges bicyclists to always wear helmets and protective gear while all motorists should always keep a cautionary eye out for pedestrians, bicyclists and other roadway users.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with DUI, Reckless Driving or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Labor Day DUI Patrols In Effect

420 Facelift" planned for WSP Mobile Impaired Driving Unit | Regional |  nbcrightnow.com

The Washington State Patrol reports that with Labor Day Weekend, Troopers will be out patrolling both day and night looking for impaired drivers. According to a survey by the Vacationer, more than 57 percent of Americans will be traveling this weekend. King 5 reports that as of yesterday, the WSP has responded to 70 crashes and 16 calls reporting aggressive driving.

WSP and the Washington Traffic Safety Commission recently reported that 2023 is shaping up to be a “historically deadly” year on Washington roadways.

Over Labor Day weekend in 2022, state troopers responded to a number of dangerous incidents in King County. They included 21 DUI arrests, 448 speeding incidents and 118 collisions, with two fatal collisions. The agency also responded to 232 reports of aggressive driving and 60 incidents of distracted driving.

Officials note the “fatal four” common causes of traffic crashes and deaths as impairment, distraction, speeding and not wearing seat belts. Approximately 75% of last year’s deaths involved one of more of the fatal four behaviors.

WSP’S MOBILE IMPAIRED DRIVING UNIT

The Mobile Impaired Driving Unit (MIDU) will be deployed to process suspected DUI offenders and enable patrols to spend as much time as possible on the roadways. The MIDU is a self-contained 36-foot motorhome that has been turned into a mobile DUI processing center and incident command post. When requested, the MIDU travels across the state in support of law enforcement efforts during DUI emphasis patrols or to emergency incidents such as wild land fires or other natural disasters. It’s a full service police station on wheels.

My opinion? Drive with patience and courtesy and expect more traffic throughout the weekend. And please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with DUI, Reckless Driving or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Can You Drink Alcohol in the Car as a Passenger?

Is It Legal To Drink In A Car If Someone Else Is Driving? You Can In These Lucky States - BroBible

Excellent article in the Tri-City Herald addresses the law regarding vehicle passengers with alcohol. In other words, what if you’re a passenger found drinking alcohol in a car, but your driver has not had a drop? How can you expect police to react? Here’s what the law says.

WASHINGTON OPEN CONTAINER LAWS

Under RCW 46.61.519, it is a traffic infraction to drink alcohol in a vehicle on the highway. Even if you aren’t actively drinking, it’s still illegal. You cannot have an open container with an alcoholic beverage in a vehicle on Washington highways.

What counts as an open container? The state law describes it as “a bottle, can, or other receptacle containing an alcoholic beverage if the container has been opened or a seal broken or the contents partially removed.”

Passengers with an open container will be responsible for this infraction, not the driver. But it is a primary violation, meaning you can get pulled over for open containers. Police will pull over cars exhibiting concerning behaviors.

Concerning behaviors include speed, following too closely, impaired and distracted driving. But other infractions, like passengers drinking or smoking in the car, are considered concerning as well.

Additionally, you cannot keep an open container in the car unless it is kept somewhere not normally occupied by passengers, like the trunk. This means opened drinks cannot be kept in the glove or utility compartment “for later.” This infraction falls on the registered owner of the car, or the driver if the registered owner is not present.

It is an additional infraction to try and disguise an alcoholic beverage in order to get around this state code. These traffic infractions come with a fine of $136.

If minors are involved in any of the aforementioned infractions, there is potential for an additional charge for a Minor in Possession of Alcohol. This is assessed on a case-by-case basis, according to Thorson.

OPEN CONTAINER LAW EXCEPTIONS

There are some exceptions to this, however. The code does not apply for open containers:

  • In public services commercially chartered for group use, like a party bus
  • In the living quarters of motors homes or campers
  • With passengers in a licensed for-hire vehicle (not rideshares), like a limousine
  • When a privately-owned vehicle is driven by a licensed employee under normal work conditions, like a cart girl

As you can see, there aren’t very many exceptions to the laws about open containers. As we’ve seen, the most common one is the outside the passenger area exception. If the open container is in a part of the car that is inaccessible to passengers, it won’t get you in trouble. Generally, this means the trunk.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with DUI, Reckless Driving or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Why Seahawks’ Geno Smith Won’t Be Charged For DUI Or Reckless Driving

Geno Smith to lead Seahawks in season opener on MNF

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith will not be charged in connection with his 2022 arrest on suspicion of DUI. Prosecutors also declined to charge Smith with Reckless Driving, citing insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty of either offense.

Smith, 32, was arrested early on the morning of Jan. 10, 2022, hours after the Seahawks returned to Seattle from their 2021 season finale against the Arizona Cardinals. According to an arrest report, he was initially stopped for going 96 mph in a 60 mph zone and driving erratically across several lanes of traffic.

The police report also stated Smith was “agitated” during his encounter with law enforcement and had been driving 96 mph in a 60 mph zone. Smith’s blood-alcohol concentration was found to be .038, less than half of the .08 legal limit in Washington State. His THC concentration was 2.6, also well below the legal limit of 5.

The state trooper who pulled Smith over detected an odor of intoxicants and observed that he had bloodshot, watery eyes, according to the arrest report. A judge issued a search warrant for a blood draw after Smith declined to take a preliminary breath test. He was taken to a hospital where he became agitated before the blood draw, even with the Seahawks’ director of team security present to try to calm Smith down, according to the report. Restraints were used to complete the process, troopers wrote.

“In considering the filing of charges, prosecutors must consider any reasonably foreseeable defense to be raised . . . From the investigation material, prosecutors do not have evidence to rebut likely explanations for his bad driving. While we can show that Mr. Smith consumed alcohol and marijuana and that in general those two substances have a compounding effect, we do not have any evidence to show exactly what effect they had on Mr. Smith, and a reasonable doubt exists as to whether his ability to drive was affected by alcohol or marijuana.” ~King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

The prosecuting attorney’s office wrote that despite evidence that Smith was driving fast and briefly traveled out of his lane, they could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was disregarding the safety of people or property on the road.

Due to a backlog with blood tests in the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab, Smith’s results were not provided to King County prosecutors until this past April. The prosecutor’s office noted in its release that Smith’s samples were being stored at the crime lab in a refrigerator that failed, and that while “there is no reasonable doubt to the accuracy of the results, there would likely be litigation related to the handling of his blood samples.”

At the time of his arrest, Smith had just completed his third season as Russell Wilson‘s backup with the Seahawks. In a tweet after the arrest, Smith urged the public to withhold judgment. He later told reporters that he didn’t think anything would come of the matter.

My opinion? Many evidentiary issues were favorable on behalf of Mr. Smith. First, his blood-alcohol and THC levels were below the legal limit to charge him with DUI. Mathematically speaking, the State could not prove DUI. This evidentiary issue was exacerbated by the WSP’s delays in processing the blood test and, ultimately, their tainting/destruction of Mr. Smith’s blood evidence.

But why couldn’t the Prosecutor’s Office charge Reckless Driving? Under the WPIC Jury Instructions, a person commits the crime of reckless driving when he or she drives a vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property or races a motor vehicle upon a public highway. Here, the Prosecutor’s office decided there was no evidence of “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”

There’s question, however, as to why Mr. Smith’s excessive speed of 90+ mph down a public highway was not sufficient evidence of Reckless Driving. Under RCW 46.61.530, “Any person or persons who wilfully compare or contest relative speeds by operation of one or more motor vehicles shall be guilty of racing, which shall constitute reckless driving under RCW 46.61.500. 

Anyway, great outcome for Geno Smith. His defense attorney did well.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with DUI or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Speed Cameras In Demand As Fatal Crashes Rise in WA State

Here's the really annoying thing about speed cameras: They work | CBC News

Informative article in the Olympian by journalist Martin Bilbao describes Governor Inslee’s efforts to acquire more traffic cameras in WA as traffic fatalities rose. The data showed a concerning lack of progress for Target Zero, a state safety plan that aims to eliminate fatal and serious injury collisions by 2030.

Traffic fatalities in Washington state increased about 39% from 538 in 2019 to 750 in 2022, according to data presented by Shelly Baldwin, director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. However, she cautioned that 2022 data was preliminary.

“We have not seen such a rapid increase since back in the ‘70s . . . We want to keep in mind that these are not just numbers. These are families and friends and co-workers whose lives have been lost and left the people around them grieving.” ~Shelly Baldwin, director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission

The data show eight counties account for about 60% of all fatalities. The top three are in the state’s population center — King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. Thurston County ranks seventh in fatalities, but is sixth in population. The state’s traffic fatality rate per 100 vehicle miles traveled reached 1.16 in 2021 compared to 1.37 at the national level, Baldwin shared. She said impaired driving, followed by speeding and distracted driving, were key risk factors in traffic fatalities.

Earlier this year, the state authorized the use of speed cameras in highway work zones with the passage of Senate Bill 5272. However, Inslee’s proposal would go further:

“The fact, we’re not doing that, frankly, is a little frustrating right now . . . I’m glad we’ve taken the first step in construction zones, but we can’t allow this carnage to continue when we have a technology that works.” ~Governor Jay Inslee

Inslee said he would direct the Washington Traffic Safety Commission to work with his staff to develop a plan for increasing the use of speed cameras. Additionally, Inslee said he supports recruiting more law enforcement personnel to enforce traffic laws.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with Reckless Driving or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

WA State Patrol Uses Helicopters to Pursue Fleeing Suspects

Helicopter closely chases a race car in this insane stunt - Vidéo Dailymotion

Nowadays, the WA State Patrol shall deploy “aviation tactics” to respond to increased incidents of street racing.

“WSP along with other law enforcement agencies has experienced an increase in the number of vehicles fleeing attempted traffic stops yet it is imperative this criminal behavior is addressed in the safest manner possible to hold these individuals accountable.  The WSP is addressing this issue with the invaluable assistance of the Aviation Section.” ~Press Release, WA State Patrol

Apparently, four recent incidents occurred where arrests were made using a helicopter.  The pilot guided ground units to suspect vehicles.

Incident #1 – WSP aircraft observed a vehicle traveling SB SR 167 in Auburn at 97mph and passing on the shoulder.  They followed the vehicle as it exited the freeway and at one point in time seemed to be racing other vehicles.  The vehicle ended up in a drive thru and when it exited troopers were able to arrest the driver.  Numerous charges to include suspicion of DUI!

Incident #2 – This incident is where a vehicle was doing doughnuts in front of a trooper in Kent.  The vehicle fled an attempted traffic stop and was followed by the aircraft.  After the aircraft followed the vehicle all over the South Center area the ground units were led to where the vehicle parked near a warehouse and the driver was taken into custody.

Incident #3 – The aircraft spotted a vehicle NB 167 traveling at 107mph heading to what was believed to be a racer meetup. The vehicle fled an attempted traffic stop by a trooper and was followed by the aircraft where speeds reached 118mph. The vehicle was followed all over the South Center area until it reached a meetup where a number of vehicles were blocking the road.  The vehicle was trapped by the other vehicles and troopers were able to make an arrest!

Incident #4 – A trooper followed several street racers and attempted to stop one for speeding.  The vehicle fled into east Auburn into a residential area and entered a home.  Troopers arrived at the residence and were able to talk the driver and passenger out of the house.  The trooper in the aircraft was able to ID the driver by the hoodie they were wearing and a lanyard hanging out of their pocket.  The driver was subsequently arrested.

STREET RACING IS RECKLESS DRIVING.

Street racing is typically an unsanctioned and illegal form of auto racing that occurs on a public road. Racing in the streets is considered hazardous.  Street racing can either be spontaneous or well planned and coordinated. Well-coordinated races are planned in advance and often have people communicating via two-way radios or citizens’ band radio. Participants use  police scanners and GPS units to mark locations where local police are more prevalent.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a Reckless Driving or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Washington is the Second-Worst State to Drive

See Where Washington Ranks Among The Worst States To Drive In | Q103.3

Apparently, Washington State is one of the worst states in the U.S. to drive in, according to a new report. Personal finance website WalletHub took a look at all 50 states to determine which are the best – and the worst – to drive in. Unfortunately, Washington State landed second from last on the list.

Traffic, road conditions and the cost of vehicle maintenance are all things that can make drivers nervous. These conditions vary across states for a variety of reasons including population, weather and government investments.

THE RANKING/GRADING CRITERIA.

To rank the states, WalletHub compared them across four key dimensions: 1. Cost of ownership and maintenance, 2. Traffic and infrastructure, 3. Safety and 4. Access to vehicles and maintenance.

Researchers then broke those dimensions down into 31 relevant metrics, including things like average gas prices, the share of rush-hour traffic congestion, number of days with precipitation, road quality, traffic fatality rate, car theft rate and auto-repair shops per capita.

Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the best for drivers. WalletHub determined each state’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score.

THE RESULTS: WA STATE RANKS SECOND-TO-LAST IN WORST STATES TO DRIVE IN.

When the scores were determined, WalletHub’s report shows that Washington ranked 49th overall among 50 states, making it the second-worst state to drive in. The state ranked 47th among all states for its cost of vehicle ownership and maintenance and 39th among states for traffic and infrastructure. Both scores contributed greatly to the state finishing so low on the list.

The only state worse to drive in than Washington, according to the report, is Hawaii.

In the report, WalletHub asked experts how states can reduce the number of traffic fatalities. Dr. Arman Sargolzaei, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Southern Florida said the vast majority of U.S. traffic accidents are entirely or partially due to human error.

“A shift in responsibilities from the human driver to self-driving cars can potentially reduce accidents,” ~Dr. Arman Sargolzaei.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with Reckless Driving or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

New Law Allows Police to Use Street Racing Videos to Track Down Violators

Street racers are taking over roads with deadly consequences as laws struggle to keep up | KATU

Florida passed a new law allowing street racing videos to be used as evidence to track down violators. Florida House Bill 399, which Governor Ron DeSantis signed earlier this year, went into effect October 1. It bans everything from street takeovers to drag racing to doing donuts on public roads.

Under this law, police don’t have to physically see the incident take place to go after violators. They can simply track down violators based on the license plates, the cars and the people in the video. Violators can be charged with a  misdemeanor and face a possible fine between $500 and $1,000. If charged, they also risk losing their driver’s license up to one year.

There was essentially no opposition to the bill in Florida’s legislature. It passed unanimously.

For now, there is only a patchwork of laws across the country that criminalize the dangerous activity. Because there’s no federal legislation about the issue, individual municipalities are left to come up with their own solutions.

According to Insurify, just in the 10 states they examined, the penalties for street racing range from just a $20 fine to a year of jail time. Insurify also conducted studies which found the following:

  • National averages. Across the United States, 3.48 per 100,000 drivers have a street racing violation on record. Plain old speeding is much more common, as a whopping 9,175 drivers per 100,000 report a speeding ticket on their record — that’s nearly 1 in 10 drivers. The penalty for street racing differs widely by state, ranging from as little as $20 to as much as $2,500 among states with the most street racers. Jail time and temporary license revocation are also possible punishments.
  • Despite the attention, street racing is still rare. Road racing has been on the rise for the past couple of years in America, and its flashy nature tends to draw headlines. Overall, however, street racing is a rare occurrence. For perspective, police issue more than 2,600 speeding tickets for every 1 street racing citation. Despite racing’s outsized fame, plain and simple speeders are who pervade the roads.
  • Street racing is inversely related to population density. Researchers at Insurify found a significant negative correlation (R = −0.27, p < 0.05) between a state’s street racing rate and its population density. This means that states with fewer residents per square mile are more likely to have high rates of street racing and that states with a high number of residents per square mile are more likely to have low rates of street racing. Coupled with the knowledge that road racing levels increased during early COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders, this is further evidence that emptier roads are attractive to drivers with a penchant for racing.

My opinion? Expect similar laws to spread around the country. Street racing is an activity on the rise, from Baltimore and Portland to Seattle and Salt Lake City, and many more communities all across America. Chicago recently formed a task force to try to tackle the problem. Just this past month, Phoenix police said four people were killed as a result of street racing. The issue took root during the Coronavirus Pandemic, when roads normally clogged with commuters suddenly emptied, opening the door to a surge in illegal street racing.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with Reckless Driving or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.



Alexander F. Ransom

Attorney at Law
Criminal Defense Lawyer

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