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100 Deadliest Days' 2021: What to Make of Statewide Crash Data

Updated on: 6/1/2022

Originally coined by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the '100 Deadliest Days' refers to the 100-day period between Memorial Day and Labor Day each year. Washington state sees a significant spike in serious and deadly collisions during this time, especially crashes that involve a teen driver or someone who was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the collision. But what can we expect during this period as Washington attempts a 'return to normal' in 2021?

Below you will find our original story heading into the 100-day period in 2021, as well as subsequent updates as the year progresses and our team collects more data. 

June 24, 2021 UPDATE

The research team at Davis Law Group has reviewed available data from the Washington State Patrol to reevaluate the trends relating to serious and fatal accidents in recent years. Attorney Chris Davis recently spoke with KLEW News at the start of the 100 Deadliest Days period, commenting that this dangerous trend could continue through 2021 even as the state attempts a "return to normal". So far, the data tends to support that concern. 

Though serious and fatal accidents are down 2% year-over-year compared with 2020, there has been a 4.5% increase in serious or fatal accidents when you compare to the trend from 2018 to 2021. 

So far this year, Pierce County leads the table with 8 accidents considered serious or fatal. Pierce County drivers were 500% more likely to be involved in an accidents involving serious injuries or death on a per capita basis, compared with King County, which has experienced the next-highest rate. When compared to the incidence rate among the state as a whole, the rate of serious or fatal accidents in Pierce County was three times higher. 

     County      Number
 of Serious or 
Fatal Collisions
Pierce 8
King 4
Spokane 3
Lewis 2
Benton 1
Chelan 1
Skagit 1
Whitman 1
Yakima 1

This kind of calculation is particularly interesting when you compare small counties with seemingly few accidents, like Lewis County, to larger ones on a per capita basis. Even though Lewis County has only seen two serious or fatal accidents during the 100 Deadliest Days in 2021, the rate in Lewis County is 14 times higher than King County, and 8.5 times higher than the statewide average. 

As we approach the next significant milestone in the 100 Deadliest Days - the 4th of July weekend - the data we reviewed may act as a warning to those who plan to travel for the holiday. Independence Day falls on a Sunday this year, which may lead to more traffic and greater risk of accidents.

What Are The 100 Deadliest Days?

Summertime in Washington state is typically synonymous with warmer weather, popular drinking holidays, and vacations for teens and young adults - a dangerous trifecta that can lead to some of the deadliest conditions on our roadways year-round. 

Historically, school-age teens and (young) adults have more free time on their hands during the summer months, particularly during this 100-day stretch. Summertime festivities often go hand-in-hand with alcohol and illicit drug consumption in the United States, and the same rings true in Washington.

To make matters worse, three of the top-ten holidays associated with alcohol consumption - Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day - take place during this period. 

What Did the Data Show from 2016-2019?

According to data published by the Washington State Patrol (WSP), there were an average of 653 serious or fatal accidents during the 100 Deadliest Days between 2016 and 2019, with 681 being the most in a single year. The main hot spots for accidents pre-pandemic include those you might expect: Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, Spokane, Vancouver and Yakima.  A majority of the cities that round out the top 10 for serious or fatal accidents regularly experience heavy traffic volume or are located along busy highways, such as Interstate 5.

The data follows what one would logically expect to see for these years. Occasionally, more populated cities in Washington will see a spike in the frequency of severe or fatal accidents. But the WSP data does not necessarily show any obvious factors that may have contributed to these spikes on their own. Some reasoning could include construction forcing people to take alternate routes, leading to an increase in daily traffic in those areas, and therefore more accidents.

For the most part, we can make a logical conclusion that serious and fatal accidents are more common in densely populated, highly trafficked areas where roadways have higher speed limits. It should be noted that Seattle and Spokane were trending downward in terms of overall accidents and accidents with serious or fatal injuries between 2016 and 2019. 

Cities With the Most Serious & Fatal Accidents in 2019

Below is a table showing the ten cities in Washington with the highest number of serious injury & fatal accidents in 2019, the last full calendar year before the pandemic: 

Auburn 13
Serious Injury Collisions 13
Fatal Collisions 0
Federal Way 11
Serious Injury Collisions 9
Fatal Collisions 2
Kent 12
Serious Injury Collisions 8
Fatal Collisions 4
Marysville 11
Serious Injury Collisions 9
Fatal Collisions 2
Port Orchard 12
Serious Injury Collisions 11
Fatal Collisions 1
Renton 16
Serious Injury Collisions 15
Fatal Collisions 1
Seattle 34
Serious Injury Collisions 30
Fatal Collisions 4
Spokane 28
Serious Injury Collisions 24
Fatal Collisions 4
Tacoma 42
Serious Injury Collisions 34
Fatal Collisions 8
Vancouver 24
Serious Injury Collisions 20
Fatal Collisions 4

How Was the Data Different in 2020?

Despite a 28% decline in the number of total accidents during the 100 Deadliest Days in 2020 (10,774 compared to 15,005 in 2019), there was a 27% increase in those with serious injuries or fatalities.

According to the WSP, there were 831 total crashes identified as a "Serious Injury Collision" or "Fatal Collision" during the 100 Deadliest Days in Washington in 2020. That represented a 27% increase of such crashes compared with the same period in 2019, the previous year.

2019 (Serious Injury/Fatalities) 2020 (Serious Injury/Fatalities)
655 831

Cities With the Most Serious & Fatal Accidents in 2020

Auburn 14
Serious Injury Collisions 11
Fatal Collisions 3
Everett 19
Serious Injury Collisions 18
Fatal Collisions 1
Kent 17
Serious Injury Collisions 13
Fatal Collisions 4
Renton 14
Serious Injury Collisions 8
Fatal Collisions 6
Seattle 34
Serious Injury Collisions 31
Fatal Collisions 3
Shelton 21
Serious Injury Collisions 17
Fatal Collisions 4
Spokane 40
Serious Injury Collisions 32
Fatal Collisions 8
Spokane Valley 14
Serious Injury Collisions 8
Fatal Collisions 6
Tacoma 36
Serious Injury Collisions 26
Fatal Collisions 10
Vancouver 23
Serious Injury Collisions 17
Fatal Collisions 6
  • Shelton saw a spike in 2020 with 21 serious/fatal accidents. There was also an increase in the number of total accidents, a trend that has been happening since 2017
  • Spokane had nearly double the serious/fatal accidents compared to each of the previous two years
  • Seattle stayed even with the previous year
  • Tacoma remained around the average from 2017-2019
  • While the total number of accidents in Spokane Valley decreased, the 14 serious/fatal accidents was a than in the previous year. This was also the most since 2016 (10 serious/fatal accidents). 

What to Expect as We Approach the 100 Deadliest Days in '21

There are differing perspectives on the kind of impact a year-long pandemic might have on consumers' travel behavior, particularly in Washington state. Some experts argue that "pent-up travel demand" across the country will surge as many states reopen their economies and more opportunities for vacation and travel become available to the public. 

The upcoming Memorial Day holiday could certainly serve as a trial balloon for what to expect throughout the rest of the 100 Deadliest Days. 

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