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After deadly May on the roads, State Patrol steps up education campaign for safe driving

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HUDSON, Iowa (KWWL)- According to The Iowa Department of Transportation, last month was the deadliest May in five years for traffic deaths in the state.

As of June 4, the DOT lists 117 Iowans killed just this year. Six days into June, six have already been killed.

The state saw a drop in traffic deaths last year. This was accredited to the pandemic keeping people home. However, as the state reopened, the deaths began to climb rapidly. As of Friday, there have been 25% more traffic deaths than there were this time last year.

Here are the death numbers for May in some eastern Iowa counties:

  • Black Hawk County: 2 deaths
  • Johnson County: 1 death, 1 serious hospitalization
  • Linn County: No deaths, 2 serious hospitalizations
  • Dubuque County: 1 death

Iowa State Patrol Public Resource Officer trooper Dave Goreham said many fatal crashes happened in intersections.

"That tells me people are either impatient, or they're just not paying attention," Goreham said. "Either not stopping for stop signs, rolling through stop signs, or going through them before it is safe."

As of Sunday, Iowa DOT reported just under 45% of those killed in fatal crashes this year were not wearing seatbelts.

"When you put your seatbelt on, that is the safest choice you can make as a driver or a passenger, and it increases your chances to crash to survive a crash," Goreham said. "it is important to be buckled up because the more you move around in a crash, the more likely you'll be hurt."

Goreham and a handful of other troopers were in Hudson Sunday afternoon at a community event honoring first responders. The event was called 'We Got Your Six'.;

"After everything they have been through with COVID and the things they have seen over the past year," Brock Jaquith, who organized the event, said. "We wanted to let them know we have their back, and we are here for them just as much as they are here for us."

State Troopers brought along their 'seat belt convincer' to remind drivers to buckle up and be safe on the roads. It allows people to experience a simulated crash of about 5 to 10 miles per hour.

As traffic deaths rise, it's important to remember to drive carefully. To keep you and your family safe on the roads, Trooper Goreham said drivers should follow SIDE:

  • Wear your seatbelt
  • Never drive impaired, under the influence, when tired, or upset
  • Avoid distractions while driving
  • Watch your excessive speed
  • Watch out for pedestrians, bicyclists or any other obstacles

If you look away from the road and down at a text message on your phone while driving at 55 mph, Goreham said your car would travel the distance equivalent to the height of an eight-story building or length of an entire football field and both endzones. The average text message takes around five seconds to send.

"Eliminate your distractions," Goreham said. "Put your cell phone on vibrate, shut it off and put it in the backseat."

Also, remember, phone use while driving is only permitted by law for phone calls or checking GPS.

The State Patrol is using PSA's and increased patrols on major travel holidays to get the message out.

On Tuesday, the Iowa State Patrol and Iowa DOT are expected to announce a Fatality Reduction Task Force to address the spike in traffic deaths. The goal is to get traffic deaths down below 300 for the year, something Iowa has not seen since 1925.

Nationally, the government's highway safety agency says U.S. traffic deaths rose 7% in 2020. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration  blames it on more drivers speeding, failing to wear seat belts, or driving under the influence.

That's the biggest increase in 13 years even though people drove fewer miles due to the coronavirus pandemic.

You can find more information from NHTSA here.

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