‘Huge increase’ in Iowa traffic fatalities this year

DES MOINES — The spokesman for the Iowa State Patrol says there’s been a huge increase in traffic fatalities in Iowa this year.

“As of today, we are at 363 fatalities. That’s 33 higher than it was last year at this same exact time,” Sergeant Alex Dinkla says. “We continue to see fatalities go on the rise. It’s alarming to all of us.” 

Dinkla says an initial review appears to show an increase in fatal accidents involving vehicles that are drifting out of their lane. “What is that telling us? That driver is doing something to go into that lane that’s distracting them, making them not see something,” Dinkla says.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 27 states have laws that make it illegal for motorists to handle a cell phone while driving. “We have pushed for a hands free law and we are going to continue to push for that because here at the State Patrol we do believe there will be a reduction in crashes and fatalities if Iowa can get that hands free law passed and make our state a safer place to drive,” Dinkla says.

State troopers say it’s difficult to enforce the Iowa law that bans texting while driving because it is still legal for someone to have a cell phone in their hand while driving. Last year the Iowa Senate overwhelmingly voted to require hands-free or voice activated technology for making calls while driving in Iowa, but the bill stalled in the House.

Nearly 330 million people in the United States have a cell phone and a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures suggests at any given moment 800,000 vehicles are being driven by someone using a hand-held phone.