3 pedestrians have died on I-5 in recent months

Mental health issues or intoxication are sometimes factors when people try to cross the freeway.

STANWOOD — Sometimes, it’s simply people thinking they can make the risky sprint across the interstate.

But that’s certainly not always the case.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Heather Axtman doesn’t make assumptions when she’s informed that a pedestrian has been struck along I-5 and other highways.

“Everyone’s story is different but sadly the outcome is the same,” she said.

In the past four months, three people have been killed on I-5 east of Stanwood, including two men in two days in late December.

Medical conditions, mental health issues and intoxication sometimes are factors, versus someone merely trying to reach the other side. It is why training can be so important for law enforcement. Axtman and other troopers spent two hours last week learning about autism and some of the behaviors they might encounter during a traffic stop.

In the September crash, a witness reported a man was wearing a mask and holding a long stick in the right lane of the freeway, according to state patrol records. The Sedro-Woolley man, 37, was struck by two cars on northbound I-5.

The December fatalities remain under investigation.

On Dec. 30, a Stanwood man, 33, was killed when he was struck by several vehicles in the left lane of southbound I-5. His death was classified as accidental.

The next day, a Mount Vernon man, 30, was struck in the northbound center lane. His death was classified as a suicide by the Snohomish County Medical Examiner.

In Snohomish County, there were 30 pedestrian fatalities between 2015 and 2017, according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. There were 119 serious injuries during that period.

Nationally, the number of pedestrian fatalities increased 27 percent between 2007 to 2016, according to a study by the Governors Highway Safety Association. During the same period, all other traffic deaths dropped by 14 percent.

“Pedestrians now account for a larger proportion of traffic fatalities than they have in the past 33 years,” the study found.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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