116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES --- Traffic deaths in Iowa in 2021 will hit a five-year high, according to state figures.
There were 353 traffic deaths in Iowa in 2021, according to a preliminary figure from the state transportation department. Typically, more may be added before the final count is confirmed.
That is the highest number of traffic fatalities in Iowa since 2017, when there were 402, and a nearly 6 percent increase over the previous year. The number increased despite a safety campaign from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau.
Steve Gent, director of traffic and safety for the Iowa Department of Transportation, said Friday that the increase in traffic deaths could be attributed to seat belt use going down, impaired driving going up and drivers driving at higher speeds.
Gent said evidence nationally appears to suggest the increase in traffic deaths is related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which is nearing its two-year mark in Iowa.
“We’ve got this whole pandemic thing going, on its wearing people out, were being told what to do and what not to do, and when we get in a vehicle we get a sense that we can rebel a little bit,” Gent said. “You get in a car and you’re free. You’re by yourself. There’s no rules. You finally get that freedom, and I think the whole sense is maybe a little, ‘Hey, I can do whatever I want here.’ People are feeling and maybe just acting out a little bit against this (pandemic).”
May was a particularly deadly month on Iowa’s roads, with 43 deaths. The previous five-year average for traffic deaths in May was just more than 27, according to state figures.
Gent pointed to a pending survey from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau that, he said, will show fewer Iowa drivers are wearing seat belts; an increase in the number of high-speed crashes; and an increase in alcohol consumption, according to a recent report from the state’s alcoholic beverages division.
Comments: (515) 355-1300, email@example.com