Iowa is on track to post its fifth straight year of traffic fatalities below 400 and the lowest highway death toll since 1943.
With less than two days left in the calendar year, the number of people killed on Iowa highways in 2013 stood at 316, said Mark Lowe, director of the state Department of Transportation’s motor-vehicle division. That was well under the death counts of 365 in 2012 and 360 in 2011.
“We’re on track to have one of the lowest years ever,” said Lowe, who attributed Iowa’s improving safety record to better engineered roadway designs, improved safety features on vehicles, improved driving skills and Iowa’s 93-percent seat belt usage rate compared to the national average of 86 percent.
“There’s been a continuous downward trend from where we were,” Lowe said. “In the ‘70s, they were much, much higher numbers. Now we’re coming consistently under 400 and driving that down closer to 300, which is a good thing.”
The last time Iowa’s yearly highway traffic fatalities were above 400 was in 2008 when the count stood at 412 deaths. By contrast, the yearly record for traffic-related deaths on roadways in Iowa was 912 in 1970, while a death toll of 304 fatalities was recorded in 1943. There have only been eight years since then that fewer than 400 people have died on Iowa roadways (http://www.iowadot.gov/mvd/ods/stats/crashhistory.pdf)Gov. Terry Branstad and his administration’s traffic safety bureau, Iowa transportation and law enforcement officials are working to change the safety culture on Iowa roadways with a goal of no traffic-related deaths. The effort is an attempt to counter an attitude where Americans apparently have come to accept that tens of thousands of motorists die on roadways each year, state officials say.