IS THERE ANYONE WHO didn’t hear about National Park Service Ranger Margaret Anderson? She was shot to death on Mt. Rainier on New Year’s Day. Anderson’s death sparked a nationwide discussion about the safety of backcountry law enforcement. She was rightfully lauded as a hero who died while protecting park visitors from an enraged gunman who later expired in the woods from exposure.

Here’s a name you might not have heard of: State Parks Ranger Ed Johanson. Johanson was driving home from work when he was killed in a head-on collision with another car on Friday February 24th. According to a press release from the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, “the driver of the other car was being evaluated for narcotics and was taken into custody on investigation of vehicular homicide.”

Governor Gregoire made a statement to the press. “Like so many of our employees, Ranger Ed Johanson was the type who went above and beyond to make both our parks and our state a better place,” said Gov. Gregoire. “A tireless advocate and innovator for our parks and a beloved community volunteer, his loss will be felt.”

I mention the Governor because I’ve just been appointed to the Governor’s Traffic Safety Commission. One of the first pieces of sobering information I received on the Commission was the fact that alcohol or drug impaired driving is still a factor in 48% of traffic fatalities in Washington State. While that percentage is down significantly from what it had been 30 years ago, the impaired driving fatalities are still way too high. Of these incidents, 63% happen in rural areas similar to where Ranger Johanson was killed.

The Commission’s Primary focus is an initiative called Target Zero. Target Zero aims to end all traffic fatalities by the year 2030. At first glance I thought that sounded unrealistic. But a staff member at the commission explained it to me like this: if you aim low, you achieve low. A former Commission executive director insisted on a Target Zero strategy because he felt that every life had value and trying to achieve anything less would presuppose a lower effort to a very important problem. Sure that means we have a long way to go until 2030 but the intention is right. I only wish we’d gotten there before we lost another Park Ranger.

 

JON SNYDER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
editor@outtheremonthly.ziplinestaging.com
For info: http://targetzero.com/Plan.htm