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As road deaths rise, WA officials say traffic enforcement, driver education need work

Crash fatalities on the roads surged during the pandemic and have hardly slowed as traffic volumes and congestion returned.
Oregon State Police
Crash fatalities on the roads surged during the pandemic and have hardly slowed as traffic volumes and congestion returned.

Washington officials say they want more enforcement of traffic laws and better training for drivers as they seek solutions to reduce fatalities on the state's increasingly deadly roads.

At a meeting with top transportation officials Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee called for more use of traffic safety cameras across Washington. Earlier this year, lawmakers approved the use of speed cameras in highway work zones.

"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," he said.

According to a state analysis, traffic deaths increased 39 percent between 2019 and 2022. Preliminary data shows 750 traffic deaths last year alone, with impaired driving and speeding as key contributors.

Officials were shocked that traffic deaths didn't go down during the pandemic, said Shelly Baldwin, director of Washington's Traffic Safety Commission.

"In 2021, 146 pedestrians were killed and that is the highest number on record for any single year," Baldwin said.

Officials are exploring how to get more people in driver education classes and making the state driver guide available in more languages. Department of Licensing administrator Dan Cooke said it's reviewing how the state could update training and test more drivers' ability to assess risks on the road, after introducing new skills tests to improve safety for motorcyclists.

Copyright 2023 Northwest News Network. To see more, visit Northwest News Network.

Jeanie Lindsay