Yakima county has seen more fatal car crashes this year and many are from the Lower Valley

Yakima county has seen more fatal car crashes this year and many are from the Lower Valley.

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash.- 24-year-old Heriberto Maya was driving just outside of Sunnyside when he lost control of his car and struck a tree.

The crash threw him from the car and he died at the scene. The Yakima County Sheriff's Office said there were also indications of alcohol or drugs in his system.

Maya is now part of a long list of people who have died from a car crash in the lower valley

The sheriff’s office is investigating the crash and Sergeant Mike Russell said this kind of crash is more common than not.

“The lower valley has notoriously been more problematic for traffic issues. There's also a significant alcohol issue,” he said.

Last year, Yakima County had 31 people die from car crashes and 20 of them tested positive for drugs and alcohol.

And of the five pedestrians hit, the coroner said all five of them were intoxicated in some way.

While 31 is a lot, Yakima County coroner Jack Hawkins said this year is even worse.

"The trend is up and we have experienced a number of fatality accidents,” he said. “Including pedestrians."

Highway 97 just south of Union Gap has had enough problems, the state of Washington has called it a safety traffic corridor. Which means they have an above average number of fatalities and collisions.

97 leads into cities like Wapato and Toppenish, where houses are right next to the speeding cars.

Families in the area told KIMA the lack of lights and high speed-limits make it dangerous for them to pull onto the highway.

Russell said those are some of the reasons the sheriff’s office has paid more attention to that section of road.

"Highway 97 is a place that has had special emphasis placed on it throughout the past years,” he said. “Just because of the serious injuries and fatal accidents that take place along that path."

Russell said taking basic safety precautions such as putting your seatbelt on and watching the speed limit can help make the road safer for everyone.

Sergeant Russell wants to emphasize, if you're going to be drinking this holiday weekend, be safe and stay home.

He says the roads are dangerous enough with snow already hitting the valley.

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