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Traffic deaths serve as tragic reminder

WSP Trooper Troy Briggs pulls over a sport utility vehicle on U.S. Highway 195 near Spangle on Friday after the driver was speeding. The driver was given a warning. The WSP has responded to more fatalities so far this year  than at this time last year. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
WSP Trooper Troy Briggs pulls over a sport utility vehicle on U.S. Highway 195 near Spangle on Friday after the driver was speeding. The driver was given a warning. The WSP has responded to more fatalities so far this year than at this time last year. (Dan Pelle / 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 U.S. Highway 395 near Deer Park, state authorities said.

A Mead woman helping friends move to a home on North Nevada Street on Friday sustained fatal injuries when she collided 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.”

Sunday’s collision occurred about three miles south of Deer Park.

Ila Hirsch, 79, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Washington State Patrol. Edward Williams, 53, and Cynthia Fowler, 38, were taken to Sacred Heart Medical Center, where they were in serious condition Sunday evening, a hospital official said.

Hirsch was southbound on U.S. 395 in her Jeep Liberty about 11:50 a.m. when she went off the road, overcorrected and crossed into oncoming traffic, WSP officials said. Williams and Fowler were northbound in a Dodge Ram pickup along with 12-year-old Vincent Fowler. The boy was not injured.



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