MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Felony-level traffic crime in King County up nearly 150% compared to 2019

Jul 11, 2024, 12:30 PM | Updated: 12:34 pm

Photo: Law enforcement responding to deadly crash in Tacoma at 6th and S. Alder.in April....

Law enforcement responding to deadly crash in Tacoma at 6th and S. Alder.in April. (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

King County officials are warning drivers to take extra precautions amid a recent rise in vehicular homicides and felony-level traffic crime.

County prosecutors from the Felony Traffic Unit revealed, as of May, there has been a 143% increase in felony-level traffic crime compared to 2019. The numbers show King County has experienced one of its most significant spikes in deadly crashes and felony-level traffic crime.

During a media briefing earlier this year, prosecutors cited an increase in drug and alcohol impairment as a key factor behind drivers who hit pedestrians, bicyclists and other vehicles. Now, they are ramping up their efforts using new tactics to promote public awareness and safety in a more direct way by sharing — sometimes — gruesome details of recent vehicular homicide cases in the county.

More on vehicular homicides: WSDOT pleas for safer driving in work zones after more workers injured in crash

Fatal SeaTac crash in February

In February, prosecutors said Adam Graves, 37, was driving along International Boulevard in SeaTac with his girlfriend in the passenger seat when he experienced a seizure and drove through a red light. Police said Grave’s Ford F-150 struck an airport shuttle before flipping and hitting a 56-year-old woman who was walking on the sidewalk. The woman died upon impact according to prosecutors. Grave’s passenger was also seriously injured.

In the aftermath, police said Graves, who suffered only minor injuries, admitted he was a diagnosed epileptic but willingly did not take prescribed medication. Graves has been charged with vehicular homicide and vehicular assault.

Speeding through red light causes multi-car collision

In June, prosecutors said Wendy Cisneros, 22, was driving with her cousin — also 22 years old — in SeaTac and sped through a red light without attempting to slow down. Police stated Cisneros’ Honda struck and killed a 19-year-old driver and injured three of his passengers. One of those passengers, the driver’s 16-year-old sister, suffered a severe disfiguring facial laceration, according to investigators.

Police reported Cisneros later admitted to officers she smoked marijuana before getting behind the wheel. In 2023, Cisneros was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol after another car accident. One of the conditions of her release was no “consumption of cannabis and cannabis products,” according to court documents. In the most recent incident, Cisneros was charged with vehicular homicide, three counts of vehicular assault and reckless driving.

“We see people who are just driving down the road going to pick up their kids or going to work, or going to Costco, who either then have life-changing injuries or are killed,” a King County Prosecutor’s Office spokesperson told KIRO Newsradio. “Take an extra second at that intersection to make sure someone is not blowing through the red light.”

Traffic fatality statistics

In 2022, there were 151 traffic fatalities in King County and 709 serious injury crashes — a 561% increase compared to 2014.

More on Washington traffic fatalities: Washington begging drivers to slow down in work zones to avoid crashes

King County’s numbers seem to directly correspond to numbers recently released by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. In May, the commission reported there were 810 traffic deaths across the state in 2023, a 10% increase in traffic deaths from 2022 and the largest number of traffic deaths since 1990.

“810 is not just a shocking statistic. Every number represents a life lost. A lost family member. A lost co-worker. A lost friend. The people who mourn have had their lives changed forever,” Shelly Baldwin, Director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, said. “I hold them in my heart as I ask drivers to take the actions we know save lives. Drive sober. Be patient. Stay focused. Buckle up.”

Luke Duecy is a reporter at KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of Luke’s stories here.

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Felony-level traffic crime in King County up nearly 150% compared to 2019