Fatal collisions down in Benton, Franklin counties in 2012

By Tyler Richardson, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 23, 2014 

Benton and Franklin county roads had fewer collisions and deaths in 2012, according to crash data released Thursday.

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission's annual report shows there were 3,304 collisions and 12 deaths in the counties that year.

That was 63 fewer collisions and eight fewer deaths than in 2011, based on information compiled by the Washington State Patrol.

Tri-City traffic officials were encouraged by the report but said 2013 was a bad year for traffic-related deaths because too many drivers are still driving drunk, speeding and not wearing seat belts.

Last year, 16 people died in traffic-related collisions in Benton County, said Coroner John Hansens. That included pedestrians hit by vehicles.

And Franklin County had two traffic-related deaths in 2013, according to the Franklin County Coroner's Office.

"My takeaway from general statistics I have seen in the past is that 40 percent of accident fatalities are DUI-related," said Mike Aldridge, who retired in 2011 from the Pasco Police Department and is now involved with Target Zero -- a statewide traffic safety campaign that aims to eliminate traffic deaths by 2030.

"The other two primary causes of fatalities are speed and unrestrained occupants," he said. "There have been a couple accidents recently that if the occupants were wearing their seat belts there wouldn't have been a fatality."

Kennewick police Sgt. Ken Lattin said the improvement in 2012 could be attributed to extra patrols and campaigns organized by the Benton-Franklin Traffic Safety Task Force.

The task force organizes DUI patrols and traffic safety campaigns.

"High visibility law enforcement and media spots do make a difference and do affect people's driving attitude," he said. "We have to keep coming back at it with public service announcements and high visibility law enforcement."

Benton County ranked 10th out of 39 counties in total collisions, according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission report. It also has the 10th-largest population.

The number of crashes in 2012 resulting in serious injuries rose from 54 in 2011 to 64, said the report. But the number of minor injury collisions in Benton County dropped to 667 in 2012 from 747 the year before.

Franklin County had five fewer fatalities in 2012 than the previous year and almost the same number of serious injury collisions, according to the report.

Franklin County ranked 18th in number of collisions, according to the report. The county has the 14th-largest population in the state.

The entire state saw the number of collisions increase from 98,820 in 2011 to a little more than 99,500, according to the report. The number of fatalities dropped from 421 to 403.

Half of all the traffic fatalities involved impaired drivers, according to the report. An impaired driver was involved in a crash every two hours and killed a person every two days.

w Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; trichardson@tri cityherald.com: Twitter; @Ty_richardson

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