MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Bellevue Police Department has had enough with traffic fatalities

Jun 8, 2024, 8:08 AM | Updated: 8:08 am

Bellevue Police Department (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)...

Bellevue Police Department (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

Washington traffic fatalities are at a 33-year high, according to the Bellevue Police Department (BPD). Officer Seth Tyler of the BPD said the numbers are unsettling and should concern everyone.

He said for the third year in a row, the city is participating in 100 Safe Days of Summer which is coordinated with the King County Traffic Safety Coalition’s Target Zero.

“The Traffic Safety Coalition, also known as the King County Target Zero Task Force, works collaboratively with traffic safety and community partners to create equitable traffic safety programs and plans to reduce collisions, injuries, and fatalities in King County,” stated King County’s website.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is undergoing Vision Zero, a program to end traffic fatalities by 2030.

“Last year, I was working in Bellevue. I wrote over 500 tickets for distracted driving. That’s a huge number. And that is way too high. Folks are still talking on their cell phones, but they’re texting. They’re using apps. They’re video chatting. And the one thing they’re not doing is paying attention to the road. And that’s contributing to our traffic crashes and traffic deaths,” Tyler said.

BPD said it’s focused on accident-causing violations like speeding and talking on the phone.

“I work on a motorcycle. So it’s super easy for me to see inside those cars if someone’s holding their phone. Normally, people are just staring at their crotch while they’re driving. So that’s a good indication that maybe something’s going on with their phone,” Tyler said.

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And so I can just look down in the window and see if they’re trying to text on the fly. They’re on their phones. So it’s not hard for us to see these violations. It is a moving violation. So it will affect your insurance. So yet another reason to stay off your phone and focus on the road,” he continued.

Tyler talked about being on-site during a fatality crash in Bellevue and how devastating it was.

“I’ve had to make those notifications to the families, you know, to tell them that their loved one won’t be coming home that night. And it’s kind of the call that I never want to have to go to ever again,” he said.

In Bellevue, if you get a DUI the officer is going to place you under arrest, according to Tyler.

“There’s going to be a court hearing. It is a misdemeanor in Washington with jail of up to 30 days for your first offense,” he said.

Tyler told us the fines range up to $10,000.

“And you’re also going to have an interlock device put on your car before you can drive it. So that’s going to be an extra expense, you have to pay for that. And there’s also a monthly fee for that interlock device,” he said.

But legal expenses can be up to $10,000. And so as I like to tell anyone who is like ‘You know what, I just had a couple beers.’ I’m like, ‘Well, is it worth $10,000?’ Because that’s what it could cost you and our prosecutors are on board with this effort to if you get a DUI, you can expect to see them in court,” he continued.

BPD’s Drew Anderson said the department has already had 94 DUI incidents in the city from January to June. He added the city has seen a 15% increase in DUI incidents over the last year.

“So enforcement is needed, not just because of fatalities and reckless driving … it is reaching a 33-year high across the state and we want to do our part to really curb that,” he said.

Numbers from AAA: Washington is one of the worst states for distracted driving

The city is hosting a mobile impaired driving unit starting Friday through Saturday night.

“The preventative measure is we are asking residents if they’ve been drinking and even if they question whether or not they’re able to drive, to take a ride-sharing program, or call a family member or a friend for help. It is not worth it to hop behind the wheel,” Anderson said.

If a Bellevue officer pulls you over for driving under the influence, you will get arrested for driving impaired, Anderson said. The fine is $10,000 worth of legal fees and it will go on your record.

Editors’ note: This story originally was published on Thursday, June 6, 2024. It has been updated and republished since then.

You can read more of Micki Gamez’s stories here. Follow Micki on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email her here.

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Bellevue Police Department has had enough with traffic fatalities