By Mario Lotmore | Lynnwood Times Staff
SNOHMISH COUNTY, Wash., February 15, 2021 – Last Friday, Snohomish County Councilman Sam Low was appointed by Governor Jay Inslee to serve as Commissioner on the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC). Low is the Washington State Association of Counties representative for the Commission.
WTSC is made up of 26 employees and ten Commissioners chaired by Governor Jay Inslee. Low will be joining nine other Commissioners: Roger Millar, Washington Secretary of Transportation, Chief John Batiste, Chief of the Washington State Patrol, Teresa Berntsen, Director of the Washington State Department of Licensing, Dr. Umair Shah, Washington Secretary of Health, George Steele, Mason County District Court Judge, Chris Reykdal, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Sue Birch, Director of Health Care Authority, and Brandi Peetz, Spokane Valley Deputy Mayor.
WTSC was created in 1967 by HB 269 and codified into the Revised Code of Washington under RCW 43.59. Pam Pannkuk is the Acting Director for the Commission, whose position is required for the state to qualify for federal traffic safety funding.
The overall purpose of the commission is to reduce traffic accidents and fatalities, promote uniform enforcement of traffic safety laws, and establish standards for investigation and reporting of traffic accidents.
The Commission’s current Strategic Highway Safety Plan is Target Zero which is a goal for the state to achieve zero deaths and serious injuries on Washington’s roadways by 2030. It plans to achieve this through high visibility enforcement efforts, new roadway designs, campaigns to change traffic safety culture, and data-driven decision making.
According to the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT), there was a total of 86,059 crashes in the state for 2020, of which 2,094 resulted in serious injury and 524 were fatal. Although there was a significant reduction in the number of crashes in 2020 – 25,593 crashes or 23% – when compared to 2019, both the fatality and serious injury count increased by eight and 160, respectively. This would make 2020 the deadliest year for traffic accidents since 2017 – according to the latest WSDOT data.
In Snohomish County, there were a total of 9,574 crashes in 2020, a 26.5% reduction when compared to 2019. However, the data shows that Snohomish County saw a similar uptick as in the statewide trend in fatalities and serious injuries with 44 fatalities compared to 39 a year earlier and 181 serious injuries compared to 175 in 2019. However, in both King and Pierce counties the total number of crashes, number of fatalities, and crashes resulting in serious injury were all lower in 2020 when compared to 2019.
“Traffic safety has long been a priority of mine. We must find equitable traffic solutions when it comes to rural vs. urban transportation needs,” Low told the Lynnwood Times when asked on his thoughts to being appointed as the newest WTSC Commissioner.
“We need to draw attention to the traffic safety needs of HWY-2 and SR-522,” Low continued. “The safety need is increased capacity. SR-522 goes from four to two back to four lanes and HWY-2 is one lane in each direction, it needs more capacity.”
Low told the Lynnwood Times that he looks forward to addressing all the transportation needs across the state.
TIB funds high priority transportation projects in communities throughout the state to enhance the movement of people, goods and services. Currently there are 25 active projects in Snohomish County funded by TIB in the amount of $33,887,450.
Low, who is also the Snohomish County Council Public Works Chair, also serves on the Puget Sound Regional Council Executive Committee and Operations Committee, The County Board of Health, Chair of the County Conservation Futures Board, and the County Elections Canvassing Board.