DES MOINES, Iowa – The year 2016 was a dangerous one on the roads for Iowa drivers. There were 403 deaths, and that was the highest total since 2008.
“Horrible, it truly was,” says Pat Hoye, executive director of the Governor’s Traffic and Safety Bureau. “We were trending the right way in 2015, then wow, 2016 comes along. It was just horrific.”
Hoye goes onto says there is not one thing they can point to for the increase but he has some hunches on why we are seeing the spike. So, in the meantime the GTSB is working with the Iowa State Patrol to launch a new education campaign called “S.O.S,” or Speeding, O.W.I and Seat belts.
“Those are the three most likely factors that contribute to a fatal accident,” said Sgt. Nathan Ludwig, Iowa State Patrol. “If we can reduce any of those, you’ll see that 403 number come way down.”
The campaign features a three-prong attack: education, enforcement, and accountability.
“Thirty-percent of Iowa fatalities in 2016, can be attributed to impaired driving,” says Hoye.
In 2017, the biggest change will be how GSTB funds are distributed to local agencies for extra OWI patrol units. Of the $5 million budget of GTSB about half of it goes towards OWI prevention, with a focus on providing extra funds to dispatch more police officers.
The program launched early last month and the state is already seeing early success.
“In January we had 20 deaths, that is down from 28 in 2016. That is a 25 percent decline,” said Sgt. Ludwig. “If we see that consistently throughout 2016, we would have the lowest number of deaths ever on Iowa roadways.”