Driving Deaths Up in Iowa, State Patrol Blames Distracted Drivers

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- It has been a dangerous year for Iowa drivers, so far. With five traffic fatalities over the weekend, the death toll is now at 211 for 2016. That puts us on track to have 440 fatalities this year, which would be the highest since 2007, when there were 446.

“It’s been crazier than normal,” said Sgt. Nathan Ludwig, Iowa State Patrol. “It’s a year where us in law enforcement, just shake our heads.”

To make matters worse, August is routinely the deadliest month for drivers. Last year, there were 51 deaths. That was the worst month in 2015.

“Bottom line is, there are more cars are on the road in August,” said Sgt. Ludwig. “We are going back to school, we are trying to fit in our last minute vacations, not to mention the biggest event of the year, the Iowa State Fair.”

Sgt. Ludwig goes on to say that the amount of traffic is nothing new but it’s a common driving habit that scares his trooper this most.

“A majority of the fatalities this year are attributed to texting and driving,” said Sgt. Ludwig. “We know that because it has to be some sort distraction. Drivers who are paying attention don’t normally lose control for no reason. If you pull up to a light right now, you’ll see almost 50 percent of all drivers looking down at a phone.”

Over the next few months, the State Patrol will take a three-pronged approach to curb this trend: education, outreach, and accountability.

“We will talk to the public about this at the State Fair. We’ll go out to drivers education classes and talk with students,” Sgt. Ludwig. “We know outreach can be successful. We need to do more of it. We just received a post on our Facebook page from a student. They thanked us for teaching them about the dangers of distracted driving.”

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