GTSB chief Patrick Hoye says he was surprised by the 402 traffic deaths recorded in the state in 2016. “We saw a significant jump from a year ago, about a 26 percent increase,” Hoye says, “2013, ’14, ’15 — we saw some very good progress and we thought Iowa was on the right path. Unfortunately, 2016 turned out to be just a horrific year for traffic safety.”
Two years ago, in 2015, traffic crashes claimed 316 lives, the lowest in 70 years. Hoye says bad weather wasn’t much of a factor in 2016, but the warmer-than-normal year may’ve had an impact.
“Preliminary numbers are showing there were 60 motorcycle fatalities, so the nice weather may’ve impacted motorcycle fatalities in our state,” Hoye says. But, Hoye says the primary factors for the spike in traffic fatalities last year include alcohol, speeding, and drivers paying more attention to their cell phone than the road.
“We’re looking at about 30 percent of the fatalities being impaired driving related,” Hoye says. “And although the data is tough to collect, we certainly believe that distracted driving is one of the causes driving the number of fatalities up.”
According to Hoye, over 40 percent of the people killed in Iowa traffic crashes last year were not wearing seat belts. The last time Iowa’s yearly highway traffic deaths surpassed 400 was in 2008 (412 deaths).