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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Teenage drivers in Spokane County rank eighth in state for serious accidents, study finds

In this Dec. 14, 2011, file photo, a driver uses an iPhone while driving in Los Angeles. (Damian Dovarganes / AP)
In this Dec. 14, 2011, file photo, a driver uses an iPhone while driving in Los Angeles. (Damian Dovarganes / AP)

Among young drivers, teenagers in Spokane County are more dangerous than some of their peers throughout the state.

A recent study found that out of the 39 counties in Washington, young drivers in the Spokane area were tied in eighth place with Skagit County for serious accidents.

The study, conducted by Davis Law Group, looked at data from WSDOT from 2013 to 2017, and the percentage of crashes involving teens that caused fatality or incapacitating injury. Teenagers in Spokane County were involved in 12 percent, while statewide, the average was 10.5.

Rural Asotin County ranked worst in the state at 19.2 percent, with five crashes. While not a large number, Asotin is a less-populous county with only 26 crashes from 2013 to 2017, the study noted.

That seems to support previous national findings that crashes in rural areas are less common but more deadly. Rural drivers are also less likely to wear seat belts, which increases the risk of injury or death.

The state’s two largest counties, King and Pierce, ranked 22nd and 11th, respectively, for the percentage of teens in serious accidents.

That doesn’t mean every small community has a high rate of serious crashes, though. Of the counties without any serious teen-involved accidents during the time period, none has an especially large population.

Chris Thorson, public information officer at the Washington State Patrol, said it isn’t surprising that rural drivers, and especially teens, tend to have more serious accidents.

The WSP urges teens to not touch their phones while driving, he said, but many still use them, along with apps like Snapchat and Instagram.

“Driving on a rural road, which is basically a two-lane highway or one lane in each direction, leaves absolutely no room for error,” he said. “If they look at their phone and they drift over the center line, they could be in a head-on collision within seconds at 60 mph.”

The findings also come right before the onset of the “100 deadliest days” between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when teen crash deaths increase roughly 15 percent, according to the AAA.

That increase is likely due to inexperience, and more time spent on the road post-graduation and for vacation.

“We definitely see an increase in traffic during the summer,” Thorson said. “It makes sense that the collision rate would be higher.”

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