CHOKEPOINTS

How WA State Patrol plans to reduce record road fatalities

Dec 13, 2022, 5:03 AM | Updated: 7:07 am

HiVE...

(Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

What do you do if you don’t have enough police officers or troopers to change the driving behavior in a state that has experienced a 20-year high in fatalities? You use data to put those resources where they can do the most good.

In 2021, 670 people were killed on Washington’s roads from 602 crashes – a 20-year high. And the numbers are not going down. Through October, we are on pace to break that record in 2022. There were 580 fatal crashes in the first ten months of this year.

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How do you improve that? How do you stop impaired driving, distracted driving, aggressive driving, and the other behaviors that lead to fatal crashes?

And how do you do that at a time when there are so few officers and troopers on the job?

Washington State Patrol (WSP) Sergeant Chelsea Hodgson said that’s where the “HiVE” patrols were born. “HiVE” stands for high visibility enforcement.

You look at the crash data, and you put as many resources in those spots as you can, stopping every violation you see. “We have the data now,” Sergeant Hodgson said. “Why not use it to the best we can to predict where these areas are going to be so we can try to stop it that way?”

The HiVE patrol was tested in Kitsap County, and the results were so promising the State Patrol took them state-wide last month. The patrols consist of state troopers and local police agencies that can join in. “It would be a four to six-hour window, and you saturate it with officers,” Sergeant Hodgson said. “We stop every collision-causing thing like following too close, speed, impaired driving, distracted driving. All of those things that lead to those awful tragedies that we want to stop.”

During two weekends in November, Pierce County arrested 15 drunk drivers. Snohomish County took five suspected drunk drivers off the road. Kitsap County? Another three suspected drunk drivers. There were a surprising number of seatbelt violations. Speeding was the most common violation.

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I don’t have all the numbers from across the state, but the State Patrol’s Chris Loftis said this is the best way to make our roads safer. “We’re going to be using data analytics to look at the best ways to mobilize our limited resources, so we have the biggest bang for the tax buck,” he said.

For Sergeant Hodgson, these patrols are about reminding all drivers that they all play a part in keeping our roads safe. “We need everyone to work together on this,” she said. “We need to make good choices behind the wheel to choose to drive safely.”

The statewide HiVE patrols return this Saturday and the final weekend of the year. The State Patrol data says these two weekends are some of the most dangerous of the year.

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