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DES MOINES, Iowa — Deadly crashes reached a five-year high in Iowa during 2021, and non-lethal crashes have also increased from the year before.

According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, 348 people have died during traffic crashes so far in 2021, the most deaths on the road since 2016.

“It is a tragic thing to lose that many lives in Iowa,” said Sgt. Alex Dinkla of the Iowa State Patrol. “We are going to keep working hard to get that number reduced.”

The 348 deaths came from a total of 308 fatal crashes throughout the state.

Dinkla said there were more than 52,000 crashes throughout Iowa so far in 2021. That’s more than 5,000 more crashes than 2020, but Dinkla said the early days of the pandemic are the cause of the lower number last year.

“During the pandemic, we experienced an almost 40 percent reduction in traffic, which is huge,” said Dinkla.

As traffic rises back to pre-pandemic numbers, Dinkla hopes a recently introduced program can turn the state’s death toll around.

Iowa State Patrol first launched a fatality reduction task force last year to try and cut down the number of deaths on the road. The task force will add different measures in the coming year to cut down on fatal accidents, such as targeted DUI enforcement.

Dinkla said the task force is already stepping up its DUI patrols for the holidays. The Iowa State Patrol arrested 16 people for driving while impaired between December 23 to December 26, and extra troopers will patrol Iowa’s roads during New Years weekend.