December 6, 2022

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Washington motorcycle fatalities increased in recent years

There have been 755 motorcycle-involved wrecks in Washington this year, 34 of which were fatal, according to state Department of Transportation data.

Six of those fatal crashes and 40 of the state’s 250 wrecks that were thought to involve serious injuries happened in Pierce County this year, according to WSDOT’s Crash Data Portal.

At least three of Pierce County’s fatal crashes were in the past month or so. A motorcyclist died in a wreck near University Place on Tuesday; another died earlier this month from a crash in Tacoma; and an accident in June killed a motorcyclist in the South Hill area.

Those statewide and Pierce County figures did not include a fatal motorcycle wreck that happened Thursday night on state Route 7 in Tacoma.

The past two years were particularly deadly for motorcyclists in the state.

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission put out a news release in May, National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, about an increase in fatal wrecks in 2019 and 2020.

“We are concerned about the high number of motorcycle rider deaths and we know that we can all work to prevent these deaths,” Shelly Baldwin, director of the Commission, said in the release. “Drivers can watch out for motorcyclists. Riders can improve their skills through training. All of us can respect speed limits and ride and drive sober.”

Ninety-two riders died in 2019 and 90 died in 2020 in Washington wrecks, which the Commission said was the highest total for a single year since 1982.

Pierce County had 10 fatal motorcycle wrecks in 2020 and 9 in 2019.

“In the last year we have seen an exceptional number of people buying motorcycles and taking training during the pandemic,” Chris Johnson, owner and trainer at Washington Motorcycle Safety Training, said in the release. “Unfortunately, we have also seen a huge spike in motorcycle fatalities, making the need for motorcycle rider awareness greater than ever before.”

Nationally, motorcycle fatalities decreased from 5,038 in 2018 to 5,014 in 2020, according to the release.

Washington State Patrol Sgt. Darren Wright encouraged motorcyclists to “slow down and enjoy the ride,” and emphasized that it’s important that drivers look twice and check before changing lanes.

“We want those new riders to make sure they get the proper training so that they can stay safe,” he said.

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Alexis Krell covers local, state and federal court cases that affect Pierce County. She started covering courts in 2016. Before that she wrote about crime and breaking news for almost four years as The News Tribune’s night reporter.