Cars may be getting safer, but it appears drivers are not.
The number of injuries and deaths caused by crashes on Interstate 90, east of Snoqualmie Pass, is surging this year, and it is primarily because of driver error, according to Trooper Brian Moore, a spokesman for the Washington State Patrol based in Kittitas County.
Anyone driving to the west side for an end-of-summer trip or for the upcoming Labor Day weekend should take note: The state patrol is out in force near Snoqualmie Pass because that stretch of road has become a problem area. The hope is that the presence of a trooper will make people slow down and pay more attention to their driving.
Moore said his office has investigated eight fatalities and 94 injury collisions in Kittitas County so far this year. Six of those injury accidents were considered serious or life-threatening.
Seven of the deaths were on I-90 just east of Snoqualmie Pass and one was on I-82. For 10 years, the average number of fatalities on that stretch of I-90 has been five a year, so if people don’t start driving with more care, 2016 could end up being among the deadliest in memory.
There is a lot of road construction going on in that area, and while that could be a contributing factor, it is the driver’s responsibility to pay attention and slow down in work zones.
Moore said there also is more volume than ever on the highways, thanks in part to the economy. On any given holiday, there could be 100,000 drivers heading over Snoqualmie Pass, he said.
With that increased number of cars on the road, people should be concentrating even harder as they drive, not less. But apparently, that is not what is happening.
Just last week, two Tri-Citians were involved in separate, but connected wrecks on I-90 west of Cle Elum. With traffic stopped on the highway, one Tri-City driver reportedly was hit from behind. The state patrol said that another Tri-City driver allegedly swerved to miss the pile-up caused by the first accident, and started a chain-reaction collision.
This spike in our region’s road injuries and fatalities unfortunately mirrors a distressing trend nationwide.
The National Safety Council last spring reported preliminary findings that showed 2015 had the largest percentage rise in road deaths in 50 years.
Its figures showed that last year 38,300 people were killed on U.S. roads, and 4.4 million were seriously injured, which means 2015 was the “deadliest driving year since 2008,” according to the report.
And this is occurring when vehicles are being designed with more safety features than ever before, the safety council said.
Something is surely amiss when technology improves vehicle safety while the number of driving deaths is on the rise. The only way to improve this horrendous paradox is for people to pay more attention when they get behind the wheel.