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Fewer drivers means fewer accidents, almost no collisions since social distancing started

Daisy Zavala

OLYMPIA – Traffic accidents have decreased sharply in March and collisions resulting in serious injury have almost disappeared as more people stay home to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Minimal traffic on Washington’s roads has reduced vehicle accidents from 4,607 in February to 2,616 through Tuesday, said Ryan Burke, a Washington State Patrol trooper for Thurston County.

More people are staying home and some businesses have closed, so there are fewer accidents, he said. The number of accidents may decrease even more with the governor’s recent stay- home order.

“What causes the majority of our crashes is driver error,” said Trooper Jeff Sevigney, who is stationed in Spokane County. “So when there’s less drivers on the road that can certainly be correlated to less traffic crashes.”

The Davis Law Group in Seattle compared data from the third week of March 2019 and March 2020 and found a 78% drop in serious injury accidents statewide.

That included a 60% decrease in collisions in Spokane County and the city of Spokane, and a 63% decrease in Spokane Valley. Accidents in Seattle dropped by 76%, according to data collected by the law group.

Fewer cars are on the roads and many of the normally full Spokane parking lots are completely empty, said Spokane police Sgt. Terry Preuninger.

Highways across the state have also been less congested and safer. The law group found a 93% decrease in accidents on U.S. Highway 395 and an 81% decrease on Interstate 90.

“There’s just not as much traffic with folks social distancing, and many folks are working from home and with schools being shut down,” Sevigney said.

But speeding and distracted driving continue to be the leading factors for collisions, he said. Regardless of how many cars are on the roads, people need to remain focused while driving, he added.