Pierce County on track to double fatal crashes from last year

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — With more than a week left in May, Pierce County has seen “about 20” fatal crashes in 2021, according to Sergeant Darren Moss with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office.

The county averages 22 total deaths from crashes yearly, according to Moss. This year’s death total is currently “about 20” because multiple crash victims are still in critical condition from previous incidents.

“It’s like every week we have another fatal collision. It’s just really, really sad,” Moss said.

The fatalities only include unincorporated areas of Pierce County, which excludes interstates, state routes, and city roads.

The most recent death came on Friday night when a 24-year-old man crashed into a cement wall near Spanaway.

“The person who died last night was only 24 years old, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t be home safe,” Moss said. “I just hope we don’t continue this trend of fatal accidents.”

Moss believes a broader return to normalcy will have a positive effect on roadways. With more people at home and fewer people on the roads during the pandemic, Moss believes it’s had unforeseen consequences on drivers and their behavior.

One of those behavior changes is an increased tendency to drive at high speeds.

“People were flying,” Moss said about roadways during the statewide shutdown. “There’s some highways that are 55 mph instead of 60, but people were driving down going 80 like it’s I-90.”

Moss believes some drivers have carried those pandemic tendencies into the contemporary world, where society is opening up more every day. While more drivers on the road may lead some to think there would be more incidents, Moss said more traffic would force more drivers to drive slower.

“Traffic was way down last year, which was nice, but we also had a lot of speeders come out with more empty roads,” Moss said. “Hopefully, there’s enough traffic where they can’t go crash.”

However, the most common reason behind most of the fatal crashes isn’t necessarily new.

“The most common things with at least over half of (the fatal crashes) is unsafe speed and alcohol and drugs,” Moss said. “So I don’t know if it’s a mixture of that, of more people getting back out on the road, and people thinking, ‘Well, it’s not as bad as it used to be, so I can go faster.’”

On interstates and state routes in Pierce County, there have been 10 fatalities in 2021 so far, according to a Washington State Patrol trooper. There were 18 total fatalities in 2020.