State officials are launching a new public relations effort to try to get to zero — zero fatalities in Iowa roadways. Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds says when she first heard about the campaign, she wasn’t sure zero was a realistic goal for the State of Iowa.
“But when you think about your family and friends…don’t we all have a goal of zero for the people that we love?” Reynolds said.
So far this year, 127 people have lost their lives in traffic accidents on Iowa roads. Iowa Department of Transportation director Paul Trombino’s agency has started posting the updated road fatality number every Monday on digital signs along Iowa’s interstates.
“We have heard from several people since we started the messages that they are uncomfortable with seeing the fatality numbers weekly,” Trombino says. “This is the type of response we had anticipated to receive, our natural emotional discomfort to see, as of today in this calendar year, 127 people have died on Iowa roads — 127 son, daughters, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles and friends.”
A year ago there was a multi-state “zero fatality” effort on Interstate 80 and now a series of Iowa agencies are collaborating on programs aimed at improving safety on Iowa roads. Iowa Department of Public Health director Gerd Clabaugh says nationally more than 32,000 people die in traffic crashes in the United States every year.
“And that’s the equivalent of 90 individuals (dying) in an airplane crash every day,” Clabaugh says. “That’s exactly what’s happening on our highways.”
Clabaugh says based on the emergency room data and death certificates processed by his agency, motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of trauma related injuries and death in Iowa.
“As a culture we’ve come to expect traffic deaths as inevitable, and while our department works to support strong EMS and trauma systems in Iowa, we know more can be done to prevent unnecessary motor vehicle deaths among Iowans,” Clabaugh says.
While surveys shows 90 percent of Iowans wear a seat belt, more than half of the people who died last year in motor vehicle accidents in Iowa were not wearing a seat belt. There’s also a strong difference in how the genders approach traffic safety, as 74 percent of the people who died in traffic accidents in Iowa last year were men. The Iowa DOT’s director says that’s true nationally, too, and was the subject of a recent conference he attended.
“A lot of that has to do with how they choose to drive,” Trombino says. “The statistics show that men tend to take more risks while they’re driving and that has shown very clearly consequences and that’s consistent across all of the states.”
Last year 371 people died on Iowa traffic crashes. Most were either driving or riding in a motor vehicle. Forty-one were riding a motorcycle, four were riding a bicycle and 14 were pedestrians killed in a traffic accident.
AUDIO of governor’s weekly news conference, at which the ‘zero fatalities’ campaign was discussed.