Iowa appears set to record fewer than 400 traffic fatalities for the second consecutive year. As of Dec. 30 of last year, 384 people had died on Iowa’s roads. Scott Falb of the Iowa DOT's Office of Driver Services told Radio Iowa he expected the final total to be about 395.
“The recession has to be considered a big part of this,” Falb said. “Our travel numbers have been down. Certainly, they are still well down from the high point we hit in 2004 when we had our highest year for vehicle-miles traveled”
In the past six years, death tolls on Iowa highways ranged from 2009’s low of 371 to a high of 450 in 2005, for an approximate annual average of 418.
Preliminary fatality data is collected continuously throughout the year from law enforcement reports and media accounts, but, because of time lags in crash reporting, final annual data is often not complete until several months into the next year.
Falb said that, although this year's data are not yet complete, the current numbers sadly show that far too many people continue to die each year on Iowa highways.
“While we won't know the final 2010 numbers for a while, the previous six-year average fatality number for December is more than 38 lives lost,” said Falb. “One death is one too many and every life lost is a tragedy. That person is a mom, dad, sister or brother who wasn't at the holiday dinner table this year.”
Falb said one particularly worrisome statistic to come from the 2010 fatality count is the number of motorcyclists killed on Iowa roadways.
“Since 2007, when Iowa saw 61 motorcyclists killed, the trend for motorcycle deaths had been going down with a five-year average of 56 deaths,” he said, “So far in 2010, the data shows 60 motorcyclists died.” Falb says more motorcyclists may have been on the road over the warm-weather months in 2010. He said, “The driving climate for motorcyclists was more hospitable this year, and even when there was rain, the temperatures were warm enough that motorcyclists still took to the road.”
In addition to fatality numbers, the Iowa DOT compiles a “Life Toll” to record the number of people who have escaped serious injury or death because they were buckled up at the time of a crash, as determined by the investigating law enforcement officer. For currently reported crashes so far this year, 184 people have been saved by their seat belts. The total number saved since the mandatory seat belt law went into effect July 1, 1986, is 6,395.