The Snohomish County Transportation Coalition (Snotrac) and Washington Bikes gathered with elected officials at the intersection of Airport Road and Highway 99/Evergreen Way Monday to commemorate the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.
“We want to work with the legislature in 2023 to lower the legal limit for intoxication, increase access to drivers education, build consumer awareness that heavier vehicles have bigger consequences in a crash, and limit turning right on red in urban areas,” Washington Bikes Policy Director Vicky Clarke said during the event.
Everett City Councilmember Paula Rhyne stated that she had lost a dear friend to traffic violence and that, “As a public official, I remain committed to advocating for changes to our built environment that improve pedestrian, bike and car safety for all. We need mobility routes that are safe for everyone to participate in, no matter their mode of transportation.” Other elected officials present — Snohomish County Council Chair Megan Dunn and Everett City Councilmember Liz Vogeli — advocated for increased mobility options for everyone.
Snohomish County saw an average of 11,989 crashes per year within the last decade. Just this year, 43 people have died in traffic collisions, which follows an upward trend of 40 deaths per year in the last decade. One of the deadliest corridors, officials said, is Highway 99/Evergreen Way, with a record high of seven fatal crashes in 2022 — a substantial increase from the past 10 years. Of those seven crashes, five involved pedestrians, including one at the location of Monday’s press event.
“These numbers are not just statistics,” said Ed Engel, Snotrac’s mobility justice advocate and a longtime Everett resident. “These people are our neighbors, family members and friends. Those that are close to us. And yet, we describe traffic violence as inevitable, costs for living in a society oriented around getting places via car. However, the truth is, these deaths are preventable.”
Washington Bikes Policy Director Clarke echoed a similar sentiment of the preventability of traffic violence, stating, “We acknowledge that every traffic death is preventable. Safer streets are possible — just look across the world; the US is an outlier.” According to a recent report from the Center for Disease Control, the U.S. has the highest population-based (per capita) death rate among high-income nations analyzed. And while other high-income countries, between 2015 to 2019, saw the population-based death rate decrease by 10.4%, in the U.S. it increased by 0.1%.
In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 9,560 people died in roadway crashes inthe first quarter of 2022, a 7% increase compared to the same quarter in 2021 — the highest number of first-quarter fatalities since 2002.
With the recent passage of the federal infrastructure bill, organizers noted, there is an opportunity to direct funding toward fixing deadly roads and improving walking and biking conditions – particularly for communities that have been traditionally underserved. “Accepting people dying on our streets is a policy choice. Let’s change policy,” Clarke said.
The World Day of Remembrance is an international event, started in 2005, honoring the 1.35 million people killed and millions more injured on the world’s roads each year and organizing for change to prevent such tragedies.