Traffic deaths are down in Finland. WA leaders will travel there to find out how


As Finland saw traffic fatalities plummet last year, Washington tallied a record number of deaths on its roads.

Next month, state lawmakers and transportation officials will travel to the Nordic nation to learn how it’s succeeded in making traveling safer on its roadways.

Sen. Marko Liias, a 21st District Democrat who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, will be part of the contingent making the trip in December. The plan is to visit Helsinki, where he said there have been no traffic-related deaths this year.

Finland, a nation of 5.5 million people, tallied 189 deaths in 2022, 36 fewer than in 2021. Washington, with roughly 7.8 million residents, had 750 people die on its roads in 2022, its most since 1990. This year, crashes claimed the lives of 417 people through July 31, putting the state on pace to exceed last year’s total.

“We want to hear what they’re doing. We want to learn what’s working,” Liias said. “And we want to understand how they built a political consensus on some of their policies.”

Finland is tough on drunk driving with the legal limit set at 0.05% blood alcohol concentration. Helsinki in the past three years installed 70 automatic speed enforcement cameras, which resulted in drivers slowing down.

Liias and Democratic Sen. John Lovick of Mill Creek sponsored a bill last session to lower the maximum blood alcohol concentration for drivers in Washington from 0.08% to 0.05%. It didn’t get a vote but could be brought up again in the 2024 session.

Traffic safety cameras are deployed in a handful of Washington cities. And this year, the Legislature passed a bill to allow use of speed enforcement cameras in construction work zones.

The dates and itinerary for the upcoming trip are still getting settled. Liias said he expected to be joined by other members of the House and Senate transportation panels and transportation policy advisors for Gov. Jay Inslee.

It’s another step in Washington and Finland’s growing partnership.

Earlier this year, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö visited the state Capitol. He met with Inslee and became the first foreign head-of-state to address a joint session of the state Legislature.

And in September 2022, Inslee led a trade mission to Finland, Sweden and Norway focused on energy and a variety of industries.

by Jerry Cornfield, Washington State Standard

Washington State Standard is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Washington State Standard maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Bill Lucia for questions: Follow Washington State Standard on Facebook and Twitter.

  1. Is sending a group of our state’s elected officials and employees a good use of public funds? How about a video conference? Fairly obvious that the outcome here will be more cameras and lower speed limits.
    How much carbon will be sent into our atmosphere with this delegation of people traveling to Finland?

    1. Yes, indeed, saddle up and fly off to a foreign country to find out how to reduce traffic deaths. Gee, maybe they have laws and policies in Finland that allow police officers to pursue violators of traffic laws? When was the last time anyone saw a cop pulling over a car for speeding, expired license tabs, broken taillight? How about never? This representative, Marko Liias, no doubt supported the bills his party passed in Washington state to hamstring police from enforcing traffic laws. So, he wants to take a junket trip on the taxpayer’s money to find out how Finland reduces traffic deaths?!?
      Your party’s no-pursuit and restrictive laws on pulling violators over are the reason, Representative Liias. You know this. So how about you show some honor and admit that you and your fellow lawmakers who created this mess submit a bill to allow police officers to enforce speeding and other laws regarding stopping violators? That is, reverse and revise the very bills that have resulted in more crime and more speeding and more deaths on our roads? You don’t have to go to Finland to do this either.

  2. Some things deserve a face to face hands on between people and issues.
    I think this is a very important issue to be address on site.
    Actually being in Helsinki will flesh out the picture of differences that zoom or video can’t deliver.
    Money is spent on a lot of things, but people’s lives on our roadways should head the list.
    I hope to see a full report on the differences and approaches that are learned in Finland.
    I think we can do a lot to save lives from DUI by not giving warnings but jail time for even first time offenders.
    That would deliver a clear message.
    Thank you.
    Ingrid Wolsk

  3. Why travel to Finland when we already have obvious partial solutions right under our noses. Stricter DWI regulations are a no-brainer. Lack of enforcement has fostered excessive speeding and spawned a new fast and reckless driving style I see playing out right here in our relatively quiet communities. Legislators, let’s go for the obvious!! rch

  4. This is pretty simple. We allow people to drive too fast, too impaired with alcohol and other drugs, and too distracted with phones and other electronic devices (like touch activated; over complicated screen displays). And Finland doesn’t.

    End of story, and no need for another taxpayer financed vacation for our elected officials who specialize in giving us things we don’t want or need, like up zoning and Climate Action Mangers who don’t really do anything we can quantify; but we hire them anyway because they claim to be some sort of expert. And we want a false sense of security all the time, so we feel better and safer in a truly dangerous world.

    1. Driving from Edmonds to Seattle on I5 routinely, there is never a trip where I don’t see something crazy occurring, from 20+ mph over the speed limit to high-speed multi-lane changes without a turn signal and less than a car length between vehicles. I cannot recall the last time that I have seen a State Patrol car . The existing traffic laws are not adequately enforced. While not normally supportive of additional civil liberty restraints and government intervention, I would consider support of more speed control cameras and periodic driver skills testing. Without change soon, I fear that I will not be returning home from a trip to Seattle. It’s just a matter of time.

  5. Gary, Bill and Mark are spot on! How many teat sucking individuals does it take to gleen information that could be exchanged in an electronic meeting?

    Does Liias’ Finnish heritage have something to do with a paid holiday to Helsinki?

    What a waste of resources.

  6. American drivers are insulated in their obese vehicles and are only self-concerned i.e, speeding, no headlights, do not use turn signals, don’t look for peds. Beware with the new, very narrow bike lanes in Edmonds and increased bike riders starting Spring 2024 … the police and medics will be scraping bikers off the pavement with a spatula. And no helmet requirement. More trauma for Edmonds police is headed our way!

  7. Don’t you mean “some” American drivers? There really are plenty of them who’ve never had an accident or a ticket.

    I’ve driven in Italy, Croatia and Greece, and they make us look slow and cautious.

    Still, I’m with you about the dangers and frequent bad driving. We need more and stricter enforcement.

  8. Ever been to Finland? Well the environmental cost for each person is equal or greater than the average car being driven for a whole year. I’ll save you the trip, it isn’t what the government is doing it is what the citizens are doing, that’s right the people are taking greater responsibility, you don’t get buy in with greater government actions. No amount of crosswalks and bike lanes and traffic calming measures and red light cameras will make a difference. Success lies in the hearts and minds of those using the infrastructure. End of story please don’t waste our money our resources on this paid vacation.

  9. Aha! So, city officials want to visit Finland to learn why its highway deaths are so low. I believe such a trip is called a Junket, and is a chance for members to take a break, go shopping, hit some bars–maybe Helsinki’s red-light district and generally goof-off. Sirs and Mesdames: have you ever heard of Zoom meetings, emails or even telephone calls? It would seem the information about why their is a difference would be fairly obvious and simple. I’d bet it would involve slowing down, obeying traffic laws and not driving like an idiot. Every late afternoon I can hear drivers doing doughnuts with tires squealing for minutes at a time. These are almost certainly young men with nothing to do but act stupid, and laugh at each other doiing stupid things. What is really surprising is that the death rate in Washington is not higher than it is. If you want to have this drummed into your thick skulls perhaps you could take a junket to where state highway deaths are even Do you really have to go all the way to Finland to figure that out. But as I have been told, there’s no money like government money and obviously city officials gonna get fat off that hog. Over the past few months, MyEdmnondsNews has run stories about how financially strapped Edmonds

  10. David,

    This isn’t about our City officials. It’s about our State officials. The article states:

    “Sen. Marko Liias, a 21st District Democrat who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, will be part of the contingent making the trip in December. The plan is to visit Helsinki, where he said there have been no traffic-related deaths this year.”

    I agree this will be a waste of tax payer dollars on a free vacation for State officials. Our traffic issues are complex and unique to the US. Political consensus building as in Liias’ statement “And we want to understand how they built a political consensus on some of their policies” will be unique to Washington state.

    If Liias and other state officials want to learn from Finland, there are other ways to gather the information needed that will cost less and serve the citizens of Washington more effectively and efficiently.

    1. Or if they’re really curious, they can pay their own way. When I was with the Ski Team, I wanted a better understanding of the Scandinavian ski waxes, ski pole production and ski development. So I just went. Learned a lot, too! And this was on my Ski Team salary, which was less than my previous teacher’s salary.

      Want to learn? Great – go do it and prove how much you really want to learn from the Finns by doing it on your own dollar!

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