Traffic deaths in Snohomish County increase

  • Sat Mar 6th, 2010 10:13pm
  • News

By Jackson Holtz Herald Writer

Snohomish County traffic deaths in 2009 outpaced statewide statistics.

While state officials were pleased to see a decrease in traffic fatalities statewide, deaths in Snohomish County were about 4 percent above annual averages, according to analysis by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

“Any death due to impaired driving is a tragedy,” said Tracy McMillan, manager of Snohomish County’s DUI &Target Zero Traffic Safety Task Force. “We all can do our part by driving safely, reporting unlawful drivers and wearing safety belts.”

Preliminary reports show that 45 people died on Snohomish County roads in 2009, said Kristal Rust, a researcher for the state highway safety group.

The numbers may change as reports are filed with state officials or if people hurt in 2009 crashes die from their injuries, she said.

She said the number of fatal crashes in the county in 2009 that were blamed on drunken driving, excessive speed and distractions also increased.

There were fewer fatal crashes in 2009 than the previous year, but more people died. That’s because of several crashes that claimed multiple lives.

The deadliest traffic crash in recent Snohomish County history claimed four lives on Highway 9 near Lake Stevens on Thanksgiving weekend. A Snohomish man pleaded guilty to four counts of vehicular homicide. The man was drunk at the time of the crash, prosecutors said. He is scheduled to be sentenced this month.

Another crash claimed three lives on Aug. 1 near Monroe.

Still, statewide 2009 was the safest year since 1955. There were about 30 fewer highway deaths than the 521 in 2008, officials said.

A person traveling from Wenatchee to Edmonds in 1955 was five times more likely to die on the road than someone making that trip today, statistics show.

The decline in deaths statewide is a result of a combination of factors, including increased law enforcement and safer vehicles and roads, officials said.

Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste said impaired driving, speed and failure to wear a seat belt were the biggest factors statewide contributing to traffic deaths.

“We will continue to focus on those very risky behaviors,” he said.

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437, jholtz@heraldnet.com.