Roads get Safer, yet Tragedies Still Happen

Washington’s roads are among the safest in the nation. Here in Kitsap and Mason counties this week, it hasn’t felt that way, however.

Two North Kitsap teens were hurt Monday night in a crash along Highway 305 near Suquamish. An 18-year-old North Mason teen was killed Friday in a crash. And on Monday night, a 66-year-old Bremerton man was pronounced dead at the scene of a crash in which his truck fell down an embankment and hit a tree on Brownsville Highway.

Kitsap and Mason counties, with a high number of curvy and often unlit 55 mph highways, suffer a number of highway tragedies each year (Kitsap’s total number of roadway deaths average about 20 per year). Speeding, alcohol and inattention to driving, obviously, do not help.

But as a state, fatalities on Washington roadways fell further to 567 in 2007 — though the number is not a final statistic — and is lower than fatality levels in 1961.

Gov. Christine Gregoire’s office released the new numbers last week, which show a 9 percent drop from 2006’s preliminary number of 625.

I did a little analysis to see how Washington weighs up against other states. Here’s what I found: Washington has 567 roadway fatalities to its 6.4 million total population. The U.S. has about 43,000 roadway fatalities to its 300 million population.

In sum, Washington has 2.1 percent of the nation’s population, yet only 1.3 percent of its roadway fatalities.

Why the low?

The governor’s office attributes the low number to a strategy called “Target Zero.” The basic premise of the strategy is using data to align resources — traffic enforcement and otherwise — toward priority areas that suffer more roadway tragedies than others. Seems as if right now the Washington State Patrol is shining a bit of this kind of spotlight on Kitsap County with regard to DUI right now. It also reminded me of the kind of targeted policing New York City has made famous in recent years.

2 thoughts on “Roads get Safer, yet Tragedies Still Happen

  1. Josh,

    More of the story is Target Zero was established during Gary Locke’s administrations.

    Memory tells me it was during the 4th year of his first term.

    A month or so ago I notified the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) that Target Zero was hidden among its priorities.

    Meanwhile, I’ve been waiting for feedback.

    Thanks for the feedback.

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