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Remember those who've died from traffic violence

Yesterday was World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, an annual high-profile global event to remember the many millions who have been killed and seriously injured on the world’s roads and to acknowledge the suffering of all affected victims, families and communities – millions added each year to countless millions already suffering.

In the United States, 38,680 people died in traffic crashes in 2020, and the numbers worsened by 18.4% in the first half of 2021.

In Snohomish County, 40-43 people died in 39-40 traffic collisions each year from 2016 to 2019, before increasing to 48 deaths from 45 collisions in 2020. Data for 2021 is not yet available.

These are people's children, parents, brothers, sisters, and friends. For any of our families and friends, not one traffic fatality would be acceptable.

Many of traffic fatalities involve alcohol or drug use, phone or eating distractions, or speeding faster than the posted limit. However, nearly all traffic fatalities can be eliminated simply through better street and highway designs of our roadways that calm and slow traffic.

Proven methods such as the Vision Zero or the Safe Systems approaches to traffic engineering are being adopted by WSDOT and other transportation and public works departments across the country.

Earlier this year, Dongho Chang presented on his previous work at the Seattle Department of Transportation to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries through improved roadway design. Dongho is now the Chief Traffic Engineer for WSDOT and we look forward to the agency and more county and city transportation departments following his lead. You can watch his presentation here.

Here in Snohomish County, the number of people walking & biking who have been killed by drivers has increased from 9 in 2017 to 15 in 2020. From 2016 to 2020, nearly a quarter of the traffic fatalities were people walking or biking.

Our cities are taking action. For example, Lynnwood created a biking & walking infrastructure plan, Bothell is updating its Bicycle Master Plan, and the cities of Edmonds, Everett, Monroe, and Mukilteo are each working to implement bike infrastructure plans. The City of Everett will also soon be implementing red light cameras; while automated enforcement will not eliminate traffic violations, it can serve as a stopgap measure until the streets can be fully redesigned and calmed. All these efforts will help address our fatality disparity.

Another disparate impact is on the elderly. In Snohomish County, people over the age of 70 are twice as likely to be killed by a driver. Everett, Lynnwood, and the Port of Everett have each updated their ADA Transition Plans this year, one small step toward building age-friendly communities. The biggest opportunity to create age-friendly communities, however, may be the creation of new walkable and roll-able communities near future light rail stations. VISION 2050, the region's land use plan, expects 65% of the region's growth to occur near these high capacity transit stations.

The number of people walking or biking who have been killed by drivers each year has increased in Snohomish County over the last decade. From 2016 to 2020, 24.7% of Snohomish County's traffic fatalities were pedestrians and bicyclists.

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