The Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau has launched an effort to reduce the number of fatal crashes on Iowa’s rural roadways. Randy Hunefeld, spokesman for the bureau, says those secondary roads account for 79-percent of the roads in Iowa. “We looked at some of the crash data around the state and found 72-percent of our fatalities occurred in our rural communities,” Hunefeld says.
The so-called “High Five Traffic Safety Project” will involve five counties: Allamakee, Fremont, Marion, Palo Alto and Webster. They were selected based on crash data and their relatively low seat belt compliance rates.
Hunefeld believes the project will encourage more motorists to buckle up. “It’s important that they take that three seconds to buckle up. It could save them a $127.50 ticket, but it could also save their lives,” Hunefeld says. Iowa’s seat belt law was enacted in 1986 and Hunefeld says he’s surprised, that after 28 years, everyone isn’t wearing a seat belt when they get in vehicle. “Almost 40-percent of the fatalities that have happened in Iowa this year were individuals who were unbuckled and that’s far too many,” Hunefeld says.
The High Five project will focus on cutting fatal crashes through enforcement, education, and engineering. “The engineering aspect will involve such things as road safety audits…we go out and do assessments of areas where crashes have happened for no apparent reason,” Hunefeld says. “There’s a team that goes out around the state that does those and makes recommendations. A lot of times they’re low-cost improvements that can make a difference.”
The High Five project was launched this week and will run through September 2015. There were 317 traffic-related fatalities in Iowa in 2013. That marked a record low for the state, but Hunefeld says 317 deaths is still too many.
(Reporting by Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)