Traffic on I-80 near Des Moines.

Traffic on I-80 near Des Moines.

Iowa roadways have been a dangerous place this year. Patrick Hoye, chief of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau, says traffic fatality numbers in Iowa had been declining, year-over-year, earlier this decade.

Last year, 320 people were killed in traffic crashes in the state. “Unfortunately, we are already at 351 for this year with about a month-and-a-half to go,” Hoye said. “It’s scary, but we could be looking in the neighborhood of 380 to 390 fatalities if this trend would continue, which would be a sharp increase from a year ago.”

The Thanksgiving holiday weekend is one of the busiest times of the year on Iowa’s roadways. A campaign is underway and runs through Sunday involving an increased law enforcement presence on Iowa’s highways and interstates.

“Obviously, the things we’ll be looking for are impaired drivers, speeding vehicles, and people who are not properly buckled,” Hoye said. Officials have been studying why there’s been such a sharp increase in traffic fatalities this year.

Hoye notes roughly half of the traffic deaths in Iowa involved people who weren’t wearing a seatbelt and 30-percent of the fatal crashes were alcohol-related. Another reason for the spike in fatal crashes could involve the low gas prices we’ve had this year.

“People are traveling more and anytime you have more vehicles traveling, there is the (potential) for an increase in crashes,” Hoye said. Over the 2015 Thanksgiving holiday, five people were killed on Iowa roads.