It appears Iowa is set to record two consecutive years with fewer than 400 traffic fatalities for the first time in several decades. To date, 384 deaths from crashes on Iowa roads have been recorded in 2010. But, the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Scott Falb expects after all crash reports are filed by local law enforcement agencies the final number to be in the 395 range.

“Which is a little bit worse than last year at 371, but it’s the second year in a row below 400 which is the first time we’ve done that since World War Two,” Falb said. The economy is likely the biggest contributing factor.

Falb notes there were 412 traffic fatalities in 2008 at the start of the recession. The three previous years had much higher final numbers of 446, 439 and 450.

“The recession has to be considered a big part of this,” Falb said. “Our travel numbers have been down. Certainly, they are still well down from the high point we hit in 2004 when we had our highest year for vehicle miles traveled.” Nearly 15% of the traffic fatalities in 2010 occurred in the month of August, when 56 people were killed in crashes on Iowa roads.

The fewest traffic fatalities have been recorded in the current month of December and in January. Both months included blizzards and occasional ice-covered roads. “Even though the weather was extreme, I think we were able to predict the snow and storms ahead of time sufficiently so people changed their travel plans and didn’t get caught unaware…that seems to be when we have our most traffic fatalities due to weather,” Falb said.

The 384 fatalities recorded thus far for 2010 includes 60 motorcycle-related deaths.