Yakima County's coroner reported more deaths in 2013

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- The Yakima County Coroner reported there were more deaths last year than the previous two years. In addition to an increase in murders and accidental deaths there was a nearly 20 percent jump in traffic fatalities.

Cheyenne Urlacher still remembers the tragic day she lost a close friend in a car accident. On a trip back from Tacoma, the friend's mother fell asleep at the wheel, and her daughter was killed.

"It was absolutely terrifying, I didn't drive back to Tacoma for nine months afterword because I didn't like the fact that I was passing by somewhere that she didn't make it past," said Urlacher.

Yakima County saw a slight increase in traffic deaths last year, from 26 to 31. Accidental deaths jumped to 45 last year. This was after just 20 deaths in 2011, and 29 in 2012. Homicides more than doubled year to year from eleven to 27.

The deaths aren't limited to adults. When kids die, it's usually the result of traffic accidents, suicide, or drugs.

"Especially when you have children of your own and they're about that same age as often you relate to that, and anybody, that we lose is tough, but the young ones especially," said Yakima County Coroner Jack Hawkins.

Despite the nearly 20 percent rise in traffic deaths, state troopers say they responded to the fewest number of traffic fatalities in recent years.
Most of the other deaths were on private land or from off-road vehicles.
Troopers did note a decrease in Native Americans involved in traffic deaths on Yakama Nation land.

"In 2010, Native Americans involved in a fatality collision accounted for 45 percent of all fatalities in Yakima County, that's all the way down to 10 percent for 2013," said Lt. Tom Foster, WSP Assistant District Commander.

Troopers are focused on a program called "Target Zero." It aims at stopping fatalities on our roadways. Since it began, seven additional troopers are on the road patrolling for DUI's to make the roads safer for everyone.

Target Zero's ambitious goal is to eliminate all traffic deaths by the year 2030.