Deadly highway crashes on the rise: ‘We are seeing unprecedented numbers’

SEATTLE -- Multiple crashes on major highways across the Puget Sound left commuters with quite the traffic mess to deal with on Friday morning.

If you drove into work on Friday morning, it’s likely you got caught in it too.

An overturned semi-truck on I-5 North near The West Seattle Bridge left traffic stalled there for hours. There were also two other crashes blocking southbound lanes of I-5 Friday morning.

In Auburn, a mail truck fire caused major backups along SR-167, and in Kitsap County a driver lost control on a wet road and caused a rollover crash on SR-3.

Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt in any of those crashes, but data from The Washington Department of Transportation shows that we are seeing double the amount of deadly highway crashes per month involving semi-trucks than in previous years.

The numbers also show that 2019 is on track to become the deadliest year on record when it comes to highway crashes involving large trucks or semis.

“This year particularly we are seeing some unprecedented numbers,” said Q13’s traffic expert Adam Gehrke. “Last year, for example, there were only 36 fatal accidents for the entire year. Now, we are only in August and we have 42. We are well on pace for blowing those numbers out of the water.”

HEAVY TRUCK CRASHES AND FATALITIES ON WASHINGTON HIGHWAYS

2014 - 3,492 total collisions, 26 fatal

2015 - 3,728 total collisions, 25 fatal

2016 - 3,869 total collisions, 36 fatal

2017 - 4,162 total collisions, 53 fatal

2018 - 3,981 total collisions, 36 fatal

2019 (so far) - 1,928 total collisions, 42 fatal

There are several factors that contribute to the growing numbers, like speeding and distracted driving.

“Folks are traveling too fast for conditions thinking they can weave or duck and dodge. Keep those speeds in check and the distracted driving is also a factor,” said Gehrke

Washington State Patrol is raising awareness on the issue through its Target Zero campaign, which aims to end traffic deaths and serious injuries on Washington roads by 2030.

Troopers say they look at traffic data in specific areas and focus their patrols on problem areas.

“They'll Geo-map it,” said Trooper Rick Johnson. “There’s this number of collisions during these periods of time in this one area and so [we’re] trying intelligent policing.”

The message that is now being driven home is to put down your phone, slow down, and pay attention while behind the wheel, so you can make it home safely.

“This is all stuff we can control,” said Gehrke. “We just have to be more aware of it.”

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