Updated on: 9/20/2022
Each year, the 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day mark the deadliest on the road. In 2020 we saw a troubling trend of fewer accidents overall, but a much higher proportion of serious or deadly crashes. In 2021 the beginning of a "return to normal" led to the accident trends resembling the pre-pandemic rate. Unfortunately this was due to an increase in total collisions rather than a decrease in serious and fatal accidents.
The research team at Davis Law Group acquired accident data from the Washington State Patrol and analyzed it to see what the trends were statewide this year and compare it to trends we saw in past years.
Statewide Data in 2022
Across the state, accidents were down year-over-year with 29,095 as compared to 31,650 total accidents in 2021. That rings true for serious and fatal accidents as well with 993 this year and 1,008 last year. This slight downward trend is consistent with data we saw pre-pandemic.
The more populated areas, like King County, saw the highest total in both categories. That number can be deceiving though, since King County also has the highest population in the state and sees the most through traffic. For example, Yakima county which has just over 10% of the population of King County had about 20% as many serious or fatal accidents. That means that despite the large quantity of collisions in King County, Yakima County actually had a worse incidence rate.
The majority of the counties across the state had incidence rates in line with the state average of 3.4%, each staying mostly even with downward trend of fewer overall accidents as well as fewer serious or fatal collisions.
Danger in Spokane
A surprising data point from this years '100 Deadliest Days' was the similarity to 2020 data in Spokane County. Despite having fewer total accidents this year compared to last year, 2,064 versus 2,140 respectively, the number of serious and fatal accidents throughout the county increased.
That rate of serious or fatal accidents is 30% higher than the statewide average rate. This is unique to this summer, as Spokane County was generally within the range of the state average for the previous two years. In 2021, Spokane County had an incidence rate of 3.5% seious or fatal accidents compared to 3.2% statewide. It was even closer in 2020 at 3.7% in Spokane County and 3.6% across the state.
In fact, despite having less than a quarter of the population of King County, Spokane County had over a third the number of serious or fatal accidents.
If 2020 is a litmus test, there is not too much to worry about in terms of the spike in serious and fatal accidents. The trends would indicate that this spike will level out with the state average. But there are many more factors to consider when it comes to these trends. For example, fire season came much later in the year this year. People may have been outdoors more than they would have in previous years when the air quality was poor due to smoke. If that is true for this year that could be one explanation for the spike. But as the weather becomes more and more unpredictable each year, it is best to remain cautious and educated when driving, especially in the summer when there are more people on the road, particularly teenagers and young adults.
With all that being said, back to school means teen drivers are on the road more consistently and there are more pedestrians around. That coupled with the holiday season coming up, which is the second most deadly time of year, just advocates that everyone be cautious behind the wheel and make smart choices when it comes to getting home from an event or party.