Traffic on I-80 near Des Moines.

The number of people killed in traffic crashes in Iowa has dropped significantly this year compared to last. Just over 400 people died in crashes on Iowa roadways in 2016, a 26-percent increase over the previous year.

There have been roughly 300 traffic-related deaths in Iowa in 2017, with just over one month to go in the year. Patrick Hoye, chief of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau, says media attention to last year’s unusual spike in fatalities may’ve caught the attention of motorists – encouraging them to focus more intently on the road.

“There were some legislative pieces that happened too,” Hoye says. “Iowa passed a primary texting law and we know with that law has come stepped up enforcement. But also, the awareness of the dangers of texting while driving — there’s been a lot of awareness campaigns and education programs that are alerting people that it really is such a dangerous activity.”

Two years ago, in 2015, traffic crashes claimed 316 lives, the lowest in 70 years.

Hoye says a big key to reducing traffic fatalities is getting motorists to use a seat belt. “Over half of Iowa’s fatalities are unbuckled, so it really is a very simple act but it can have a life-saving measure attached to it,” Hoye says.

Iowa’s seat belt useage rate is close to 94-percent, which among the highest rates in the country.