Traffic fatalities increase nationally and statewide - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Traffic fatalities increase nationally and statewide

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -

Deaths on the road are up around the nation, and the same is true in Iowa.

Nationally, there have been 1,000 more traffic deaths this year compared to the same time last year according to a federal report.

In Iowa, 35 more people died on roads compared to the average number on this day.

Black Hawk County is approaching the total number of traffic deaths from last year.

So far, there are eight reported traffic-related deaths compared to a total of 10 in 2015.

Meanwhile in Dubuque, there have been three total deaths this year.

There have been six deaths in Linn County this year compared to a total of five in all of 2015.

In Johnson County, 11 traffic deaths this year trumps last year's five people killed.

According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, the message is simple: put down your phone, and buckle up.

Nearly 40 percent of Iowa traffic fatalities this year involve people not wearing seat belts.

Drivers Linda Schlichtmann and Susan Smith notice another trend.

"Not seat belts, but those fricken cellphones. People are texting and driving and turning right in front of you. You've got to drive for two people almost," Linda said.

"It's like they go off the side off the road, and they continue to text or whatever. I get really upset with it," Susan said.

State officials are looking into whether Iowans are spending more time on highways since gas prices are steady.

Regardless, Iowa drivers say safe driving habits should be common sense.

"I think we should have a law. They do in Idaho and Washington. You can't drive and text. If you do, you get a fine, and I don't think they have that in Iowa. I think we need that," Linda said.

Making her annual trip to Boise this week, Linda plans to take advantage of the lower gas prices, hitting the open road.

"I keep a book, and last year it was $2.39 on my trip. So, it's down. It keeps going up, but it's still down from what it was," Linda said.

The DOT says they should know whether more drivers hit Iowa highways this year by next spring, but they do believe there has been an increase.

So far, there have been three traffic-related deaths this month around the state.

The deadliest month this year was May, with 39 deaths.

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