Washington drivers gave each other the best gift possible over the Christmas weekend: a significant drop in highway deaths.
The only fatality reported to date is a hit and run in Auburn.
This year’s official federal holiday period started at 6 p.m. on Dec. 23, and ran until midnight Sunday, Dec. 26.
During last year’s Christmas break — one day longer (Dec. 23-27) because the holiday fell on a Friday — four people died in collisions statewide.
“Even one death is too many,” said Washington State Patrol chief John R. Batiste.
“But it seems we had a much safer holiday weekend than in previous years.”
Batiste urged drivers to keep the positive momentum going for New Year’s.
“If we can do this for one holiday, we can do it for all of them,” he said. “Collisions are not accidents. We have the power to eliminate them by simply making better choices.”
Those choices include:
• Do not drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
• Slow down. Winter weather makes that even more important.
• Buckle up. Wearing a seat belt helps protect you from the other person’s mistake.
State troopers also responded to fewer injury collisions during the Christmas weekend but made more DUI arrests (192) than in 2009 (165 arrests).
Batiste thinks the additional arrests might have contributed to the drop in deaths.
“Every DUI we arrest is a potential life saved,” he said. “I have no doubt that some of those we arrested would have crashed had they not been caught.”
This reduction in fatalities is in keeping with “Target Zero,” the state’s goal of completely eliminating highway deaths by 2030. Highway deaths steadily have been dropping for the past five years, and the current trend puts the state in good position to meet that goal.
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