Iowa could be headed for safest year on highways in recent memory

Interstate 380 in Linn County.  Officers say the cable barriers that keep vehicles from...
Interstate 380 in Linn County. Officers say the cable barriers that keep vehicles from crossing the median has meant more property damage accidents but fewer highway deaths.(KCRG)
Published: Dec. 18, 2018 at 5:03 PM CST
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With a little luck, Iowa could end the year with the fewest number of traffic deaths in recent memory.

Excluding the years during World War Two, with gasoline rationing and travel limited, 2013 was the safest year for driving in the state.

A total of 317 people lost their lives that year.

But on Tuesday, the death toll this year in Iowa finally hit 300. And based on the statistical averages of deadly accidents in December, 2018 should wind up with fewer total deaths on the highways.

Sgt. Darin Snedden with the Iowa State Patrol, says lots of factors go into a safer year overall including safer automobiles from manufacturers, such as vehicles equipped with lane sensors and automatic braking.

He says the weather this December has been more cooperative with less ice and snow after a cold November.

There’s also something to be said for luck.

But he’d also like to think the patrol’s emphasis on distracted driving is having a positive impact too.

“All law enforcement stepped up enforcement of distracted driving which we all know is a real problem. The more people we can reach out to show that’s a cause, the better,” he said.

Sgt. Snedden says a change in Iowa law to allow officers to pull over people texting while driving without any other traffic violation has helped.

He says it’s still difficult for officers to spot violations but more drivers seem to have gotten the message to quit texting while behind the wheel or risk a ticket.

The Iowa State Patrol has set a goal in recent years of keeping yearly traffic deaths below 300. That won’t happen again this year, but setting a positive record for the fewest deaths overall in recent years would be a good consolidation prize.

As recently as 2016, a total of 402 people died in traffic accidents.