State identifies six of the Iowa’s deadliest roads, posts warning signs

DES MOINES — New yellow-and-white warning signs are now posted on six segments of roadways across Iowa, stretches that are among the most dangerous in the state. The Iowa Department of Transportation is launching a pilot program, naming those six segments “Safety Corridors,” where motorists need to be particularly careful, and where law enforcement will step up patrols.

DOT maintenance engineer Ben Hucker says they’ve done a careful study of thousands of miles of roads statewide using a specialized computer program. “It takes and analyzes each segment of roadway against other peer roadways around the state, so, say it’s a two-lane road with 3,000 vehicles per day, we look at other two-lane roads with 3,000 vehicles per day around the state, and we compare crash rates,” Hucker says, “and for these segments, the crash rates really stood out.”

Other states have seen success by marking accident-prone roads as Safety Corridors, and Iowa is giving it a try for the first time this fall. “If we see a decrease in crashes in the corridors, then we may consider expanding this,” Hucker says, “and if we don’t, then we may go back to the drawing board and figure out what’s next.”

Traffic fatalities in Iowa this year are more than 13-percent higher than the average number of fatalities over the last five years, and Hucker says one key to reducing deaths and major crashes is to bring awareness to the problem. He’s hoping drivers take note of the signs and respond.

Hucker says, “We’d like motorists to remember to slow down, drive with caution, put the phone down, limit distractions, buckle up, all of those good safe driving habits that we, the Iowa State Patrol and law enforcement always preach.”

Traffic deaths had been on the decline in Iowa and nationwide throughout the 2000s and 2010s. “And then something happened in 2020,” Hucker says. “Perhaps it was pandemic-related or what have you, but the trend has gone the opposite direction. We’ve seen roadway fatalities increasing every year since then, and it’s quite an alarming rate to have that year that shift in the data.”

A total of 312 people have died on Iowa’s roads so far this year, a rise from 286 on this date a year ago.

The six Safety Corridors in Iowa are:

  • U.S. 20 from Lawton to Moville in Woodbury County
  • U.S. 6 from East of Council Bluffs to US 59 in Pottawattamie County
  • I-80 from County Road F-48 to Newton in Jasper County
  • Iowa 5 from Iowa 92 to the Monroe County line in Marion County
  • U.S. 218 from Mt. Pleasant to County Road J-20 (near Salem) in Henry County
  • Iowa 2 from Donnellson to U.S. 61 in Lee County

Hucker says the six ranked in the top one-percent statewide for all crashes and severe crashes. They also had a higher number of single-vehicle, run-off-the-road crashes and rear-end crashes at intersections, with speeding and distraction as the major causes.