Washington state’s auto fatalities surge in 2022, study says

Sep 8, 2022, 6:34 PM | Updated: Sep 23, 2022, 2:47 pm
car fatalities...
(KIRO 7)
(KIRO 7)

Editor’s note: a previous version of this story incorrectly claimed that Washington state had the highest number of auto fatalities in the nation this year. That information is not correct. This was caused by a misunderstanding of data presented to us. Instead, the story now accurately reflects the surge in auto fatalities in Washington state, which are believed to be related to an increase in DUI cases. We regret the error.

Washington has seen an increase in auto fatalities during the pandemic, according the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This week, two DUI fatalities closed down State Route 101 and I-5 during morning rush hours.

With the fatal crashes and DUI arrests on pace to surpass last year’s numbers, it begs the question, what’s causing this high rate of fatalities in Washington state?

Someone working in law enforcement, who asked not to be identified, told KIRO Newsradio they think it’s political.

KIRO Newsradio Headlines: Two people killed, more injured in DUI crash

“We are no longer allowed to pursue someone in a car if they take off when we pull them over. We have to ask a supervisor for permission to pursue and sometimes it’s a no-go.”

Knowing that creates an atmosphere where drivers think they can get away from being chased, according to the law enforcement member.

But State Patrol Trooper Robert Reyer disagrees, stating, with supervisor permission, more times than not, troopers are quick to call and go after those who break the law.

“The word on the street, per se, is that we are not allowed to pursue cars anymore, and that’s far from the truth,” Reyer said.

This false narrative that’s being spread is dangerous, according to Reyer, because fatality crashes are up in Pierce and Thurston counties. There have been 33 fatalities in Pierce and Thurston counties combined. It’s set to surpass last year’s number (50).

The other law enforcement officer also notes that drivers aren’t just under the influence of alcohol. For instance, the driver who reportedly caused the crash in Mason county was under the influence of methadone. DUIs for Mason County have reached 1,088 for 2021. 2022 is not available as of yet.

The number of DUIs for 2022 has reached 1,505 compared to last year’s 2,082 for Thurston and Peirce Counties.

Another possible reason for DUIs? Drivers might not care anymore. Reyer believes drivers’ behavior has changed since the start of the pandemic. The roads during the height of the pandemic were practically empty. Now roads are almost back to pre-pandemic numbers and people have lost their patience.

Last but not least, troopers told KIRO Newsradio that they lost a lot of employees due to vaccine mandates. Because of this, state departments are short-staffed by more than 200 troopers. The lack of troopers on the street is another possible reason there are more crashes on the road.

A class of troopers are set to graduate later this month.

Local News

Photo from KIRO 7...
Deedee Sun, KIRO 7 News

Accusations fired, facts challenged as Pierce County sheriff’s criminal trial begins

The criminal trial for Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer is now underway. Jury selection wrapped up on Wednesday and both the defense and prosecution gave opening statements.
7 hours ago
L.B. Gilbert

School closures, delays as more freezing temps bring icy roads, more snow

After snow continued to fall for most of Wednesday, Thursday's below-freezing conditions are creating a mixture of rain, slush, snow and ice on roadways around the Puget Sound region. 
7 hours ago
A flyer seeking information about the killings of four University of Idaho students who were found ...
Rebecca Boone, Associated Press

Victims’ families urge love, kindness as Idaho campus mourns

As hundreds of students mourned together inside the University of Idaho’s stadium Wednesday night, family members of four slain classmates urged them to raise their eyes from grief and focus on love and the future.
7 hours ago
Bill Kaczaraba

More snow overnight; this time the south Sound area is getting hit

Snow is returning to the region overnight, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) in Seattle.
1 day ago
Bill Kaczaraba

Everett Police to hold ‘Guns for Gift Cards’ in December

In an effort to take unwanted guns off the streets, Everett Police are holding their first "Guns for Gift Cards" this weekend.
1 day ago
(Photo obtained by Darren Dedo)...
Darren Dedo

Cops look for cougar stolen from iconic Seattle restaurant

Jeff Scott said over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the suspects broke in and took Barbara, a stuffed cougar, from the Cougar Room.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSPA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Washington state’s auto fatalities surge in 2022, study says