Gun Deaths Outnumber Traffic Deaths in Washington, Nine Other States

Though the emphasis on reducing traffic fatalities and serious injuries in Washington state has been a focal point for law enforcement agencies and citizens alike, reports of gun deaths have also littered news headlines across the state in 2012. The Washington State Patrol’s Target Zero Teams have made it a focal point to eliminate traffic fatalities by the year 2030, and a recent study shows they may very well be on their way, as the number of gun deaths actually surpassed the number of traffic deaths in ten states across the U.S. in 2009.  

Violence Policy Center’s Gun Deaths Study

A state-by-state analysis of government data conducted by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) has revealed some interesting information about fatalities in the United States. Whether it is good or bad news, however, is entirely dependent on your point of view.

According to the report, the VPC found that the number of gun deaths surpassed the number of motor vehicle deaths in ten U.S. states in 2009, the most recent year for which state-level data is available.

“Motor vehicle deaths are on the decline as the result of a successful decades-long public health-based injury prevention strategy that includes safety-related changes to vehicles and highway design,” reads an entry from the VPC website. “Meanwhile, firearms are the only consumer product not regulated by the federal government for health and safety.”

In the VPC’s report, ten states are identified as having a higher rate of gun deaths than motor vehicle deaths. The table below illustrates the statistics involving these states:

StateGun Deaths in 2009Traffic Deaths in 2009

What it Means for Washington

The VPC’s findings can be considered a positive sign for Washington State, as the efforts of Target Zero – the Washington State Patrol’s campaign to eliminate traffic deaths by 2030 – have clearly made an impact on traffic fatalities in the state.

However, the discovery also means that there is more to be done for gun safety in the state, as we have even seen an unsettling spike in gun deaths, particularly with children, so far in 2012.

“Americans are reaping the benefits of smart safety regulation of motor vehicles,” says VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand. “The idea that gun deaths exceed motor vehicle deaths in 10 states is stunning when one considers that 90 percent of American households own a car while fewer than a third own firearms.”

And while there are constant debates over the availability and restrictions of guns in the United States, regulations on the product’s safety features and operational use are virtually nonexistent.

“It is also important to consider that motor vehicles – unlike guns – are essential to the functioning of the entire U.S. economy,” adds Rand. “It is time to end firearms’ status as the last unregulated consumer product.”

What do you think about the finding that gun deaths are now more frequent in Washington state than traffic deaths? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comment box below. If you have been injured in an accident, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries and lost wages. Contact the Davis Law Group today at 206-727-4000 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. 

Chris Davis

About Chris Davis

I am the founder of Davis Law Group in Seattle, Washington. My firm is a boutique personal injury practice that specializes in complex personal injury claims, including wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases.


  1. Gun deaths vs. Homicides. Use Gun Deaths if you have an agenda to advance. Use Homicides if you want the facts, the truth, with no emotional agenda.

  2. Shouldn’t we compare gun homicides and accidents to car accidents? The vast majority of those 623 gun deaths here in Washington were gun suicides. Probably all but about 150. While depression is tragic, in a gun suicide, the gun was performing exactly as the shooter wanted it to. It is my understanding that guns increase the suicide success rate, but to be honest, I feel that freedom really does mean that people have and should have control over their own lives and deaths. Of the approximately 150 non-suicides, how many were police shootings? We’re probably down to about 125 accidental and homicidal gun tragedies compared to 580 accidental car tragedies.

    Let’s keep working on the depression and other causes of suicide. We’ve already had so much success with the near continual decrease in firearm accidents, lets keep those messages and practices up as well. On the homicides, I think that the state of Washington has taken one of the first big steps to reducing the homicide rate (including the gun homicide rate): end drug prohibition and end the violent black market associated with it.

    The subtext of this article is that we should start paying more attention to guns than traffic. But cars are still a much more significant a cause of accidental and homicidal death than firearms and it would be a huge mistake to either reduce the effort to limit car fatalities or to pretend that violence is going to go away if we could just take guns away from all of the law-abiding citizens. Especially when there are so many other avenues to keep working on gun accidents, gun suicides, and gun homicides without running afoul of the US Constitution and the Heller and McDonald Supreme Court decisions.

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