Two wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against Washington State by the families of victims killed in a head on collision in 2014. The incident occurred on a notoriously dangerous stretch of Highway 522, between Highway 9 and U.S. 2, where a portion of the roadway narrows to two lanes with no center line barriers.
The plaintiff’s include the mother of 18-month old Isabella Rose Bednarski and the daughters of Stanley and Joan Kinger, a Redmond couple. The Washington State Patrol believes that the three victims were killed after Isabella’s father fell asleep at the wheel and overcorrected upon waking, crossing the center line into the Kingers’ vehicle, hitting them head on. The Kingers had been on their way home from Monroe.
Isabella’s father was cited for the accident with no evidence of drugs, alcohol or cellphone involvement. No criminal charges were filed.
The lawsuits allege that the State has breached its duty to ensure safe roadways and has known about the dangers of Highway 522 for decades, with the Department of Transportation “acknowledging that State Route 522 is known as the ‘Highway of Death’”, on its website.
The State describes Highway 2 as an integral part of east-west traffic routing, yet “overburdened” due to growth that has caused increased traffic and accidents. “Reader’s Digest warned drivers in November 2000 that the 10 mile stretch of SR 522 between Woodinville and Monroe was among America’s most dangerous highways”, the website shows.
Accident data obtained by lawyers for the families report 1,780 collisions on Highway 522 between 1980 and 1995 that resulted in 1,359 injuries and 47 fatalities. In 2002, the Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration reported an average of three fatal collisions a year.
“The state says there’s not enough money to fix [the highway]. Under Washington state law, that’s not an excuse,” said plaintiff attorney Keith Kessler, also alleging “mismanagement of funds”.
Isabella’s mother is hoping that the lawsuit will cause the state to fix the dangerous roadway. “She doesn’t want other parents to go through what she has,” says her attorney.