Apr 11, 2024 - News

Iowa among states where traffic deaths increased the most in 2023

Estimated change in vehicle-related fatalities, 2022 to 2023
Data: U.S. Department of Transportation; Map: Thomas Oide/Axios

Iowa had among the nation's largest increase by percentage in vehicle-related deaths last year, according to estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Why it matters: The Iowa death count is the highest it's been since before the pandemic.

By the numbers: Vehicle-related deaths in Iowa increased more than 11% — rising from 338 in 2022 to 376 last year, according to the federal report.

  • Only Rhode Island, Kentucky and Idaho logged larger gains.

State of play: The report comes as safety regulators urge Iowa lawmakers to pass hands-free legislation like more than 30 other states.

  • Distracted driving fell in Missouri, Ohio and Michigan after their legislatures passed hands-free laws, according to a study published last month by the Governors Highway Safety Association.
  • Iowa's hands-free legislation did not pass this session.

Between the lines: Traffic safety advocates say Iowa's road fatalities have increased since 2020, due to an increase of risky behaviors like fast speeds, distracted driving and aggressive lane changes.

Stunning stat: Iowa's 2023 traffic deaths are higher than in 2021, when open roadways during the pandemic contributed to egregious speeds.

  • At least 59 people have died on Iowa roads so far this year, according to an Iowa DOT count published Wednesday.

The intrigue: In the metro, a high percentage of crashes occur at intersections, according to an analysis of data between 2018-2022 presented this month to the committee of the Des Moines Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).

  • Crashes are more common on weekends and at night, per the report.

What's next: The MPO recently launched a survey about how to improve traffic safety.

  • Feedback will be used in developing an improvement plan.
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