A year-long initiative to reduce fatalities on rural roadways begins today in five Iowa counties. Patrick Hoye, chief of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau, says this is the second year for the High Five Rural Traffic Safety Project.
“When we looked at crash data, rural crashes in Iowa account for 78 percent of our traffic fatalities. So, we were looking for a rural project to turn that around,” Hoye said. The counties participating in the project this year are Boone, Jackson, Lee, Monona and Poweshiek. They were selected because of their relatively high rates of crashes on rural roads and low seat belt compliance rates.
The project will involve an increased law enforcement presence in the five counties and officers visiting high schools to talk to young drivers about obeying traffic laws and keeping their focus on the road.
“And then also, working with the Department of Transportation and their engineers,” Hoye said. “We’re taking a look at doing road safety audits in these counties. Are there engineering issues that are causing some of these crashes?” Last year, the project included Allamakee, Fremont, Marion, Palo Alto and Webster Counties. Each county recorded an increase in seat belt usage with the most significant increase occurring in Allamakee County.
“When the program started, we did a pre-seat belt survey and 61-percent of the residents of Allamakee County surveyed were buckled. Upon completion, it had gone to 87-percent,” Hoye said. Roughly 80-percent of Iowa’s total roadways are considered rural in nature.
Funding for the overtime enforcement efforts is provided by Federal Highway Safety Grants, according to Hoye.