Sep 23, 2022 - News

Iowans are driving at "egregious speeds" as traffic fatalities increase

Illustration of a stop sign with a memorial wreath.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Traffic fatalities have steadily risen in Iowa since 2020 and preliminary estimates from the first quarter of 2022 show they're not slowing down.

Driving the news: Around 69 Iowans died in car accidents during the first quarter of this year, a roughly 44% jump compared to 48 in 2021, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

  • The nationwide increase for the same period was 7%, reaching an estimated 9,560 deaths — the highest number of first-quarter fatalities in 20 years, NHTSA said in its report.
  • Nebraska is the only neighboring state that saw a higher percent increase, going from 45 fatalities in 2021 to 70 this year.

Why it matters: The new data suggests U.S. roads are becoming more deadly and that the country is on pace to have yet another annual rise in traffic fatalities.

  • Iowa had the 11th highest increase in the nation in the early NHTSA estimates, released last month.

What's happening: Traffic fatalities began growing nationwide during the pandemic even though fewer people were driving and overall traffic accidents dropped, Axios' Joann Muller reported.

  • The people who were on the road tended to be disproportionately male and younger (39 and under) and also engaged in risky driving behavior, an AAA study found.
  • Half of the people who drove more during the pandemic said they were speeding on residential roads and texting, while nearly half reported running red lights and changing lanes aggressively.
  • They were also more likely to not be wearing a seat belt or to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Zoom in: Iowa's 2022 crash rates are averaging seven fatalities higher in comparison to the state's five-year average, according to the Iowa Department of Transportation.

  • 356 people died in Iowa accidents last year — a five-year high, according to the DOT. So far in 2022, 235 people have died.
  • A disproportionate amount of drivers are dying without a seat belt on (47%) and are in rural areas.

What they're saying: Iowans have been driving at "egregious speeds," since 2020, said Sgt. Alex Dinkla, spokesperson for Iowa State Patrol.

  • State troopers are pulling over people every day who are driving 100mph+ speeds on the roads, he said.

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