116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Through both education and enforcement, state and federal law enforcement organizations plan a concerted effort to drop Iowa's traffic fatalities below 300 a year - a level not seen in the state for nearly a century.
Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Alex Dinkla said the patrol and the Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau have teamed up with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Iowa Sheriffs and Deputies Association, the Iowa Police Chiefs Association and the Iowa Department of Transportation to form a task force aimed at reducing traffic deaths.
Dinkla, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Public Safety, said Gov. Kim Reynolds is expected to announce the Fatality Reduction Task Force in a few days.
'Ultimately, we'd like to see zero fatalities on our roadways,” Dinkla said. 'But we know it might take some time to get there. First we have to start seeing our numbers of fatalities on our roadways go down consistently, and a milestone that we have looked at for a number of years is to try to get under 300 fatalities, which we have not had since 1925.”
Dinkla said the task force plans to tackle this goal in two ways - enforcement and education.
The education piece could come in many forms, he said. It could include social media campaigns, messaging on highway signs and public service announcements on TV or radio.
'We've also developed a slogan and a series of informational graphics that we will be putting out there to remind drivers to slow down, wear their seat belt and pay attention to the road,” he said. That slogan is 'Drive safe Iowa, the power is in your hands.”
For the enforcement piece, Dinkla said the task force has homed in on four main culprits contributing to the bloodshed on Iowa's roadways: speeding, distracted driving, impaired driving and not wearing a seat belt.
The task force used traffic data for the past several years to identify four periods where Iowa sees significant numbers of traffic fatalities. The dates are March 17, July 9-12, Sept. 16 and Oct. 2-4.
During those time periods, law enforcement agencies across the state will participate in special enforcement details.
'In looking at the data over the past 10 years, we were able to identify those four time periods as the deadliest days on Iowa's roadways,” Dinkla said. 'And those four contributing factors are some of the biggest reasons as to why these crashes are happening. So we'll be seeing special enforcement projects happens across the state on those four time periods that will be focusing on those four factors.”
Dinkla said the special enforcement for March 17 will focus on impaired driving and seat belt enforcement. The project for July 9-12 also will focus on impaired driving, he said. Sept. 16 will focus on speed and Oct. 2-4 will focus on distracted and impaired driving.
Thirty six people have died on Iowa's roadways since the beginning of the year, according to the Iowa DOT. That's a decrease of 10 deaths from the same time period from last year.
Iowa DOT data shows 338 people were killed in fatal wrecks in 2020; 336 in 2019; 319 in 2018; 331 in 2017; and 402 in 2016.
There were many factors contributing to 2020's fatalities, but excessive speed was the biggest one Andrea Henry, Iowa DOT's strategic communications and policy director, told The Gazette earlier this year.
State troopers wrote more than 1,400 citations for speeds over 100 mph, and the Iowa DOT reported 69 people died on Iowa roads last year in speed-related crashes.
'We've seen a huge increase in driving speeds across Iowa in recent years,” Dinkla concurred. 'It's really gotten out of control, and that is one of the things that has led us to creating this Fatality Reduction Task Force. We knew that if we wanted to reduce fatalities that we would also need to take action to address the egregious speeds we are seeing on our roadways.”
In 2019, distracted driving played a role in 1,099 crashes that resulted in three fatalities and 538 injuries, data from the Iowa DOT shows.
Additionally, 69 fatalities in 2019 were attributed to speeding and 100 deaths were attributed to impaired driving. In 93 of that year's traffic deaths, the person who died was not wearing a seat belt.
So far this year, 51 percent of the traffic deaths have involved an unrestrained person.
'You know, traffic fatalities are completely preventable, but hundreds of Iowans are dying each year,” Dinkla said. 'So it's our hope that by teaming up and working together, we will start to see a reduction in traffic deaths this year,”
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