ARTICLE

2011 traffic fatality number lowest since 1944

Drop comes despite huge increase in vehicle registrations, DOT officials say

Eastbound traffic passes by on Interstate 80 near the 244 mile marker in Iowa City on the afternoon of Friday, September 30, 2011. (Matt Nelson/The Gazette)
Eastbound traffic passes by on Interstate 80 near the 244 mile marker in Iowa City on the afternoon of Friday, September 30, 2011. (Matt Nelson/The Gazette)

There were 364 fatalities on Iowa roadways in 2011: the lowest number of deaths since 1944, according to data from the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Fatalities over this period have declined despite the fact that:

  • Vehicle registrations have skyrocketed from 691,301 in 1944 to 4,141,397 in 2010.
  • There are 42 percent more paved highway miles on Iowa’s Primary Highway System (PHS) today than in the 1940s. (The 1945 official state map shows there were 5,459 miles of paved road. There are more than 9,400 miles on the PHS today.)

The crash rate has dropped from 4.43 fatalities for every 10,000 registered vehicles in 1944 to less than one fatality for every 10,000 registered vehicles in 2011.

Advances in vehicle safety, improvements to highway design and passage of highway safety laws have saved thousands of lives.

The use of seat belts continues to be a major factor in preventing traffic fatalities and serious injuries. Iowa’s 2011 “Life Toll,” a record of the number of people who have escaped serious injury or death because they were buckled up at the time of the crash, stands at 208.

Still, some people are not getting the message. Statistics show 116 people, 41.13 percent of all Iowa traffic fatalities, were unbelted. That number could be significantly higher because law enforcement officers were unable to discern seat belt use for 50 additional fatalities (17.73 percent).

Many safety measures implemented by the Iowa DOT or enacted by the Iowa Legislature are helping to save lives and prevent serious injury. These measures include:

  • Safety improvements made to the highway itself, such as shoulder rumble strips, centerline rumble stripes, safety edges and paved shoulders. These are all designed to reduce the number of lane/roadway departure crashes.
  • Installation of median cable barrier at locations with a higher-than-average incidence of median crossover crashes on multilane, high-speed roadways.
  • Enactment of Iowa’s graduated driver’s license system, which is aimed at increasing the skill sets of novice drivers, while also increasing parental involvement and supervision.
  • 2010 enactment of the law requiring all passengers under age 18 to use safety restraints, regardless of seating position in the vehicle.
  • 2010 enactment of the law prohibiting texting while driving.
  • 2010 enactment of the law prohibiting teens with restricted driver’s licenses from using any electronic communication or entertainment device while driving.
  • The Safe Routes to School program, which is working to increase pedestrian/bicycle safety.
  • Site-specific safety improvements to Iowa’s roadways at locations selected in part through use of advanced crash analysis tools.

Fatalities
Month 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005
January 19 18 27 36 33 23 44
February 14 30 21 30 24 34 31
March 41 19 27 29 25 27 30
April 25 23 37 25 35 39 30
May 26 31 46 23 40 34 31
June 26 36 33 43 37 40 45
July 37 35 31 30 51 38 37
August 29 56 29 44 42 37 35
September 42 30 32 37 44 45 38
October 37 43 29 33 34 42 35
November 29 48 35 45 45 34 50
December 39 21 24 37 36 46 44
Total 364 390 371 412 446 439

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