A record number of bicyclists have died in accidents in Iowa this year, and that has caught the attention of Governor Terry Branstad.
Branstad says it is part of a larger problem on the roadways. “Distracted drivers, drowsy drivers, people under the influence of controlled substances, and we’ve seen not only an increase in the deaths of cyclists, motorcyclists, but also motorists. And I do want to see us address those issues,” Branstad says. Nine bicyclists have died in the state this year.
Department of Public Safety Commissioner Roxann Ryan has put together a group that is working on the issue. “I think cyclists are an important piece of that. When we talk about fatalities in general it’s the distracted driving, the drugged driving, the drunk driving and the drowsy driving that seems to be the problem,” Ryan says. “For cyclists they are always at the disadvantage when it’s any kind of vehicle that causes issues.”
Ryan says you don’t have to be on a bike to be in danger from distracted drivers. “Pedestrians are the other issue that we have dealt with specifically, so those motor vehicles are certainly important, but we have to include bicyclists and pedestrians when we talk about traffic safety,” Ryan says. She says her department put out a brochure this spring trying to make motorists more aware of bicyclists.
Governor Branstad says the Pokemon Go phenomenon that has hit recently has increased concerns for pedestrians. “If you walk around Des Moines even and all over the country, people are walking around looking at their phones and crossing streets. And so, pedestrians need to be careful too — even if you are involved in Pokemon Go, or whatever it might be,” Branstad says.
Branstad was asked if it might be time to ban cellphone use for drivers. “Well, that’s one of the things we are looking at as far as distracted drivers. And we will be looking at the whole thing about the used of different devices and are there things that might distract drivers,” Branstad says.
The governor says he expects Commissioner Ryan’s group to make recommendations to him on distracted driving and it will be one of the major issues he talks about in his state-of-the-state address in January.