The Iowa Department of Transportation has identified the most dangerous spots on Iowa highways. Tom Welch, a transportation safety engineer for the state, says for the most part, the roads are safe.
“Our fatality rate in the state of Iowa is probably 25 percent below what you’d expect given the type of roadways…we have,” Welch says. “We certainly have some need for safety improvements on our roadways but looking at our crash data, we also have a very important need in the state of Iowa to change driver behavior.” He says that’s because a huge number of the fatal crashes on state roadways are nobody’s fault but the driver’s.
He says half of those killed last year in a traffic accident weren’t wearing a seatbelt. Twenty-four percent of highway crashes involved an impaired driver and 60-percent were single-vehicle run-off-the-road crashes in which Welch says it often turns out the driver was distracted, speeding or drunk. He says it may be part of the American culture to have drivers multi-tasking and dealing with stress and speed.
“At one time the United States had the lowest fatality rate in the world of industrial countries,” Welch says. “We’ve fallen to number seven or eight.” He says many European countries hold down their accident rate with tough enforcement, random stops to check the condition of drivers, and automated camera systems to help monitor red-light violators and also speeding. He says while those may not be acceptable in this country, high roadway death rates are not acceptable in those countries.