August 9, 2009 in City

Traffic deaths provide tragic reminder

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Three more Inland Northwest residents died in traffic fatalities this weekend as Washington authorities put out a plea for motorists to drive safely.

A 79-year-old Colville woman was killed Sunday when she collided head-on with a truck on Highway 395 near Deer Park, state authorities said.

A Mead woman helping friends move to a home on North Nevada Street on Friday died the day after colliding with a driver who police say was speeding and lost control of his car.

And early Saturday, a 30-year-old man drove his car into Hayden Lake. The Hayden man was pronounced dead at the scene.

Thirty-six people have been killed in traffic crashes in Eastern Washington and North Idaho since the beginning of the year, authorities said. Alcohol, speeding, crossing over the centerline and inattentive driving were among the top reasons for the collisions.

“One thing we really want to emphasize is that the contributing factors to these fatalities are decisions by drivers,” said Washington State Patrol Trooper Troy Briggs. “We hope people consider that and make better choices.”

Already this year, there have been 21 fatalities in Eastern Washington, eight more than at this time last year, Briggs said. Fourteen of the deaths have been in Spokane County, three in Lincoln County, three in Stevens County and one in Pend Oreille County.

North Idaho, on the other hand, has had seven fewer traffic deaths so far this year, said Idaho State Police Lt. Chris Schenck. There have been 15 fatalities since January. In 2008, there had been 22 people killed in crashes by this time, which was up from 14 in 2007.

“We spiked last year,” Schenck said.

Texting while driving is a growing concern because it takes a person’s eyes and attention off the road, and it takes hands off the wheel. In fact, a recently released study by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that drivers were 23 times more likely to crash when they texted.

A fatality near Freeman in March may have been caused by a driver crossing over the centerline into oncoming traffic while texting, authorities said. But proving that texting is a factor is difficult.

“When you get behind the wheel or grab onto the handlebars of your motorcycle, you are the one making the decisions,” said Washington State Patrol Trooper Freddy Williams. “The WSP is asking you to make wise choices because wrong decisions could result in collisions which could cost your life or the life of an innocent party.”


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