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Washington State reports highest number of traffic deaths in more than 30 years

Washington State reports highest number of traffic deaths in more than 30 years 02:00

SEATTLE, January 23, 2023 - Washington roads were the deadliest they've been in over three decades last year.

Data from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission shows 745 lives were lost in fatal crashes throughout 2022. It's the highest number of deaths on state streets and highways since 1990.

"That was up from the previous year, which was the highest number in about 20 years," said Mark McKechnie of WTSC. "Now we've reached a number that's the highest number in over 30 years."

McKechnie says drugs and alcohol are a factor in roughly 60% of deadly crashes.

"People who are intoxicated tend to speed more, and that can lead to more crashes, and more serious crashes. They're also less likely to wear a seatbelt, which means they're more likely to die when they are in a crash," McKechnie said.

WTSC is now calling on state lawmakers to lower Washington's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for drivers from 0.08% to 0.05%. One state has already done so, Utah, and advocates say it's paying off.

"They saw a 19.8% reduction in impaired traffic fatalities, just by behavior. Just people go, 'oh my goodness,' you know, 'I can't do it, I need to change my behavior,'" said Dennis Maughan, Pacific Northwest regional executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Both MADD and WTSC are backing a bill in the Washington Legislature aimed at bringing the state BAC limit down to 0.05%.

"We do believe that it will drop. Will it be 20%? Gosh, that would be wonderful, but we know that it will save lives." Maughan continued, "we're not against drinking, we're just against drinking and driving."

Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste says, in part, "the goal of this bill is not to increase the number of DUI arrests but to remind and encourage people to avoid driving after drinking and thereby save lives." The bill could take effect as soon as July of 2023 if passed and signed into law.

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