Speeding is norm statewide
By KATIE SCHMIDT
Mercer Island Reporter Intern
August 17, 2010 · Updated 10:23 AM
If you find yourself heading down Snoqualmie Pass into Issaquah very often, you’ll know how fast people tend to drive there, and, sure enough, westbound I-90 in Issaquah is one of the top three places in the state where Washington State Department of Transportation data shows consistent speeding.
According to the 2010 Speed Report released by the Department of Transportation in June, over three-fourths of all cars consistently go faster than the speed limit near Issaquah. In some other parts of the state, drivers regularly exceed 90 miles per hour.
The Washington areas where the highest percentage of drivers exceed the speed limit are I-5 in Lacey, westbound I-90 in Issaquah and southbound SR-003 in Silverdale. In all three locations, over 75 percent of drivers traveled above the posted speed limit during three months of data collected earlier this year.
Driving too fast is a leading cause of car accidents, according to the Washington State Patrol, and it is an established pattern in some parts of state.
Since 2002, when the Department of Transportation started compiling top 10 lists for areas where drivers tend to speed the most and the fastest, the same places have come up over and over, with this year’s high-speed zones such as Preston, Issaquah and Lacey showing up in the top three speed sites in the 2002 report as well.
“The primary causes of collisions are speeding, driving while impaired, aggressive driving, and the next is distracted drivers,” said Sergeant Freddy Williams, Public Information Officer for the Washington State Patrol. "When you're driving down the road, you're operating a very large, very heavy piece of equipment that can cause a lot of damage."
He said detachment sergeants with the patrol often use the Transportation Department speed reports, released four times per year, to identify high risk areas that may need more trooper attention.
Overall, the latest report found that speed trends remained relatively constant on all state highways compared to the same time period last year, though the percentage of drivers speeding on 60 mph interstate highways increased. Since 2001, the average speed on Washington roads has increased by about one mile per hour overall.
But on some highways in Washington state, drivers are more than just five or 10 miles per hour over the limit.
Significant volumes of vehicles consistently exceeding 90 miles per hour in the Puget Sound area and parts of Eastern Washington have been recorded since 2001, according to the reports available on the state's Transportation Data Office Web site.
The report found that I-182 in Pasco, I-90 in Preston approaching Snoqualmie Pass and I-5 in Woodland, near Vancouver, Wash., had the highest volume of cars that exceeded 90 miles per hour.
With the school year just around the corner, drivers heading to Spokane or Pullman should be aware that two sites near Othello on Highway 26 are also identified as areas where many cars are routinely driven at speeds well over the limit.
“It’s consistent over time,” said Marchelle Lee, the administrative assistant for the Statewide Travel and Collision Data Office at the Department of Transportation. “In some of those areas in the report, it’s always that way. It’s wild.”
Tony Niemi of the Transportation Data Office, which issues these reports, said the information for them is gathered using permanent sensors in the road at 47 sites around the state. For the most recent report, 45 sites submitted data.
The sensors can calculate speed, he said, based on the time that it takes for a vehicle to pass between two points on the road.
Geneva Hawkins, of the Transportation Department Collision Data and Analysis Office, said the sensors that were used to compile data for the speed reports were embedded in the 1970s, and the federal government dictated their location.
“The areas weren’t picked because there’s a problem there, necessarily,” Hawkins said. “They decided this years ago.”
“We can’t be everywhere at once, so what we’re asking the community to do is watch your own speed, and if you see someone speeding, call 911,” said Williams.
If you do report someone driving too fast, he said, the state patrol will want to know what roadway the speeding vehicle is on, what exit or milepost it is close to, a description of the vehicle and its license plate number, if possible.
To download copies of the WSDOT speed reports including state highway maps visit: www.wsdot.wa.gov/mapsdata/tdo/speedreport.htm.