In 2015, there were 499 deadly wrecks in Washington state, a nearly 20 percent increase over the year before. A total of 551 people died in crashes in 2015.
Fatal wrecks were up in Tacoma and unincorporated Pierce County as well, year over year, according to the Annual Collision Summary produced by the commission and released Thursday.
Fatal collisions in unincorporated Thurston County declined to nine in 2015 from 11 in 2014, but Olympia saw one more fatal wreck in 2015 (two) than it did in 2014 (one).
Tacoma police reported 19 fatal collisions in 2015, eight more than they reported in 2014. In Pierce County, the 27 fatal collisions in 2015 were two more than the year before.
Washington’s rate of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled also increased for the second straight year, reversing an eight-year downward trend.
The state’s rate of 0.92 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled still was below the national rate of 1.22, according to the commission.
The commission reported that “inattention/distraction was the most frequent contributing circumstance among all collisions.”
Law enforcement agencies across the state handed out 33,697 citations to drivers caught texting or otherwise using cell phones in 2015.
As to what led to the increase in fatalities, commission research analyst Geneva Hawkins declined to hazard a guess.
“Everybody you talk to has a different theory,” Hawkins said.