Editorial: Zero traffic deaths by 2030? Put more emphasis on law enforcement


The recent spate of horrendous collisions and nose-thumbing at rules should prompt some serious thinking around the laudable state and local goals of no traffic deaths in six years.

It's not always the roads. Sometimes it's the drivers.

And, as with so many other signs of societal stress, it comes down to a lack of law enforcement and weak consequences for behaviors that put the entire community at risk.

Consider the case of 18-year-old Chase Daniel Jones, charged with four counts of vehicular homicide after he drove his Audi A4 at 112 mph into a Renton intersection on March 19, killing Andrea Hudson, 38, along with three children of close friends who were passengers in her car: Boyd Buster Brown, 12; Matilda Wilcoxson, 13; and Eloise Wilcoxson, 12. Two of Hudson's children were severely injured and were hospitalized in intensive care.

It was the third vehicle Jones totaled in a crash involving excessive speed in less than a year, according to charging documents filed by the King County Prosecutor.

For all this, the court set Jones' bail at $100,000. Prosecutors had asked for $1 million.

Then there is Miles Hudson, aka "Belltown Hellcat,"recently charged by the Seattle City Attorney's Office with two counts of reckless driving stemming from a video Hudson posted in February that showed a driver racing another car at speeds up to 107 mph.

As Times reporter Paige Cornwell noted: "Hudson said he considers himself an Instagram influencer. In one video, which has 6.6 million views, the driver films himself behind the wheel and says it's 2 a.m., then revs the engine multiple times. He told the officer who pulled him over last week that he was going to continue and that the money he made filming videos had paid for the car."

Seattle's Vision Zero, which aims to end traffic deaths by 2030, notes that "Traffic deaths and injuries are preventable" and "Success does not hinge on individual behavior, but on the design of a safe system."

WSDOT's Target Zero campaign to reduce traffic fatalities to zero by 2030 is a "data-driven, long-term plan to identify priorities and solutions, create goals and develop a common understanding among the agencies working to keep Washingtonians safe."

Speaking of data, let's look at Seattle Police Department statistics for "Computer-Aided Dispatch" events — all activities that draw cops' attention.

There were 92,101 traffic-related incidents in 2019. Last year, that dropped to 42,569 — a reduction of more than half.

This is, of course, a direct function of fewer cops. Since 2019, more than 700 officers have left SPD. As of January, SPD had only 913 deployable officers, the lowest level since the 1990s. And the city's population boomed in the same period.

In a December report, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs noted the per capita rate of law enforcement officers statewide fell to 1.3 per thousand — the lowest ever recorded, again. For more than a dozen years, Washington has had the fewest law enforcement officers per capita, ranking 51st in the nation.

So, yes, we need to build safer roads. But unless we pay just as much attention to who is — and who should not be — driving on them, needless deaths will surely continue.