AMES (MCT) – Iowa roadways continue to be safer places to drive.
Motorists traversing highways in Iowa are on track to post another year of below-average traffic deaths, possibly the lowest toll since 1943.
With seven weeks remaining in 2013, the number of people killed in traffic mishaps stood at 266 Tuesday, said Steve Gent, director of the Iowa Department of Transportation’s office of traffic and safety. That’s 40 below last year’s pace when the death count ended at 365 for 2012. A total of 360 people died on Iowa roadways in 2011.
“It is definitely a good trend line,” said Gent, who noted yearly traffic fatalities have stayed before 400 since 2008. However, he added that if the death toll finished below the 304 fatalities in 1943, it still would mean that one out of every 10,000 residents would die in traffic accidents this year.
Gent said state officials are working to change the safety culture on Iowa roadways with a goal of no traffic-related deaths. The effort is an attempt to counter an attitude where Americans apparently have come to accept that tens of thousands of motorists die on roadways each year.
Gent said there are positive trends with seat-belt usage at a high rate of compliance and drunken-driving incidents declining. Also, improvements have been made whereby cars and roadways are safer and Iowans are traveling fewer miles – due in part to higher gasoline prices and economic bumps.
The most troubling development is the rise of distracted driving despite legislative efforts to curb activities such as texting with the proliferation of electronic gadgets and mobile phones, he said.
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