One month ago, law enforcement officials had high hopes that the state would post fewer than 300 traffic fatalities in a single year for the first time in over seven decades. Unfortunately, that won’t happen.
Iowa State Patrol spokesperson Sergeant Scott Bright says the traffic death toll for the year rose to 315 last week. Bright credits the recent rise in traffic fatalities to a combination of foul weather and more vehicles being on the road over the holidays. There were 365 traffic fatalities in Iowa is 2012.
Bright expects the final tally in 2013 will be around 320. “Over the last five years, we’ve seen a decline in fatalities,” Bright says. “Each year, it keeps going down and that’s one of our goals for next year — to see that number decrease from what we had this year.” There were 412 traffic fatalities in Iowa back in 2008 — almost 100 more than will be recorded this year.
Bright gives credit to several factors. “There’s more enforcement out there and education of the public. I think the roadways are a lot better than they were years ago and vehicles are being made safer with side-impact air bags,” Bright says. “I think people are understanding that when they get behind the wheel and they start speeding or texting, they could lose their life because of it.”
Median cable barriers, installed along most of Iowa’s interstate systems in recent years, are also having an impact. “That definitely has helped (keep) vehicles, when they lose control, from coming up on the other side of the interstate and hitting someone head on,” Bright says. “That’s definitely helped in the fatality decrease in Iowa.”
Bright says seat belt usage is also helping save lives. According to U.S. Department of Transportation figures, around 93-percent of Iowans routinely buckle-up in a vehicle. The national seat belt usage rate is 86-percent