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Police statewide for next three weeks to target speeders, educate drivers
You're more likely to get killed in a traffic accident involving speed in King County than anywhere else in the state.
That's probably not surprising, given the county's population and traffic load. Counting 2004 through 2008, speed killed 246 people in King County, or 21 percent of the state's total.
But what's surprising is that fatal accidents involving speed frequently occur on county or rural roads, outside congested cities, where wide-open spaces tempt a heavy foot.
Statewide, during those five years, 1,166 people died in accidents caused by speed. In Island County 16 people were killed. In Kitsap County 51 people were killed.
Beginning Friday for three weeks, about half of the state's roughly 300 police agencies will take part in a first-ever emphasis patrol targeting predetermined areas where speed is a known problem.
The Renton Police Department is participating.
The statewide campaign is called Slow Down or Pay Up, announced Thursday with demonstrations and speeches at Boeing Field in Seattle. The campaign is part of the Strategic Highway Safety Plan — Target Zero, whose vision is to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries cased by speeding by 2030.
Statewide, about 40 percent of all traffic deaths involve speed. The fine for speeding depends on the speed.
The emphasis patrols are not a "sneak attack," said the director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, which is providing the participating agencies with about $450,000 to pay for the extra patrols.
The campaign through May 1 is not about writing tickets, but about raising public awareness and changing behavior, said the director, Lowell Porter.
"If we can get the public's support, we know we can save lives," Porter said in an interview.
The extra patrols are on duty during the times data show are when speeding is likely to occur, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Fridays and noon to 8 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
"You are going to see a signficant number of officers working in cars," Porter said.
Speeding is the No. 1 factor in fatal crashes involving teen drivers or motorcycle riders in Washington. And, according to the commission, the faster you drive the more likely you are to die or become seriously injured in an accident.
And it's not just younger drivers at risk. Older ones who ride touring motorcycles are also overly represented in the statistics for fatalities and serious injuries, Porter said.
Safe driving tips
• Obey the speed limit.
• Adjust your speed for the road and weather conditions. Sometimes, the posted speed is not a safe speed.
• Don’t tailgate. Leave at least one car length between you and the car in front of you for every 10 mph of your speed.
• Slow down when it’s rainy, icy or foggy.
• In heavy traffic, slow down and watch out for sudden stops or erratic driving by other drivers.
• Slow down if there is limited sight distance.
Source: Washington Traffic Safety Commission