The year’s warm weather across Iowa brought an increase in fatalities among motorcycle riders and boaters.
Through Sunday, 49 people have died in 47 motorcycle accident statewide compared to 35 deaths last year, according to the Iowa Department of Transportation. Boating fatalities more than doubled, to 9.
There were no motorcycle fatalities the first two months of the year, but temperatures into the mid-eighties by mid-March brought riders out earlier than usual. There were just two March fatalities in 2011 but seven people died this March, including two killed March 18 in Cedar Rapids’ Czech Village.
Through mid-September investigators had confirmed alcohol played a role in 8 deaths. That was down from 13 alcohol-related deaths last year, although test results are pending in some cases.
There have been fewer boating incidents this year – 28 so far, compared to last year’s 38 – but fatalities jumped from 4 last year. Susan Stocker, boating law administrator/education coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said last year’s numbers were affected by flooding along the state’s western border.
“Last year on the Missouri River, no one could get on it,” Stocker said. “(This year) we had 80-degree temperatures in February, so we started the season a lot earlier.”
A single incident accounts for nearly half this year’s death toll. Four people died when two small boats collided about 2 a.m. May 19 as they were ferrying people from a party on a Mississippi River island near Burlington.
Six of the year’s boating fatalities were alcohol-related, compared to 2 last year. Results of blood tests in some fatal incidents are still pending, Stocker said.
The DNR follows Coast Guard reporting guidelines, defining a boating “reportable incident” as one causing $2,000 or more in property damage, death, injury or a missing person.
“We don’t feel that any of them are an accident,” Stocker said.