Washington drivers are driving faster and more aggressively since the Covid pandemic began. Aggressive covid driving has led to a record rise in traffic fatalities in Washington (and neighboring Oregon) not seen since the 1990’s. The overall traffic-related death toll in Washington, including pedestrians, totaled 745 in 2022, an increase of 11%.
Lawmakers in Olympia are considering a range of possible options to address this dramatic uptick in traffic fatalities, including photo enforcement in roadway work zones, prohibiting right turns at red lights, and lowering the legal limit of blood alcohol content (BAC) for drunk driving.
Photo Enforcement in Roadway Work Zones
The Washington DOT has asked the state Legislature to allow installation of speed enforcement/ticket cameras in highway work zones to enforce reduced work-zone speed limits and better protect vulnerable workers. In 2022, five workers were killed and 28 seriously injured in these zones state-wide.
Prohibiting Right Turns at Red Lights
The Washington Legislature is reviewing proposals to reduce the number of vehicles hitting pedestrians and bicyclists by prohibiting right turns at many stoplights. “Free right turns” are already restricted at certain complex intersections in some cities. If the new proposed legislation passes, restrictions would also go into force across the state at stoplights located near schools, parks, child care centers, senior centers, hospitals, and libraries.
Lower DUI Threshold
Other legislation gaining momentum early in 2023 proposes to lower the blood alcohol content (BAC) threshold for presumed intoxication from .08 to .05. Oregon and California also considered similar measures in 2019, but those bills failed to pass. Currently, Utah is the only state with a drunk driving standard of .05.
Mandatory Driver’s Education
New older drivers may have to complete a formal driver’s education course before receiving a driver’s license. Currently, anyone over the age of 18 can receive a driver’s license simply by passing a standard driving test. The new bill would raise that age to 25. Research by the state Traffic Safety Commission found that young drivers who did not complete a training course were involved in fatal or serious collisions at a much higher rate than people who took driver’s ed.