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2019 saw a rise in traffic fatalities, highest since 2016

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) -- The Iowa DOT released its latest traffic fatality count revealing 336 people died on Iowa's roadways in 2019.

While the number of fatalities from August to December is not finalized the number of fatalities did increase from the two years prior.

Year after year Iowa sees about 340 people die in car accidents, so 2019 was nothing out of the norm.

KWWL News 7 spoke to the Iowa Department of Transportation to break down what's causing these deadly crashes.

A map of the deadly accidents from the Iowa DOT shows they're happening across the state from rural roads to within city limits.

"In 2018 we ended the year with 315 fatalities," said Director of Strategic Communication, Andrea Henry, "So that's actually an increase of 21 but I will say it's pretty normal for those numbers to fluctuate."

Over the years the number of fatalities has fluctuated from 402 in 2016, to 331 in 2017, then 319 in 2018.

In 2019 increasing to 336 but still on track with the 5-year-average.

"Really the top ones are that they're either running off the road left or right, exceeding the authorized speed, losing control," said Henry.

At least 164 fatalities were non-collisions, single-vehicle accidents. While 40 of the fatalities were head-on collisions and 47 were broadside collisions.

MAJOR CAUSECOUNT
Ran off road - right50
Ran off road - left38
Exceeded authorized speed26
Lost control20
FTYROW:  From stop sign16
Ran stop sign15
Driving too fast for conditions14

*Table courtesy Iowa DOT

"A high number of people dying in crashes are not wearing their safety belt," said Henry.

In fact, in 93 of the fatal accidents, people weren't wearing a seatbelt. Despite around 93% of Iowas who responded yes to wearing a seatbelt in an Iowa Department of Safety survey.

"If you look at the total number of fatalities 37.35% of the fatalities that we had last year were not wearing a seatbelt, there's also an additional 12% of people that we don't know," said Henry.

On top of rumble strips and signs to catch wrong way drivers the Iowa DOT continues to push its zero fatalities campaign. But really the department says it's up to drivers.

"Behavior has a huge impact for the safety on our roadway and from the dot perspective we're always encouraging people to slow down and really pay attention to the task of driving," said Henry.

There are a number of factors that lead to every crash but the DOT encourages all drivers to follow the 5 good driving habits.

Those are wearing your seatbelt, not driving drowsy, reduce your speed, drive sober, and put down the distractions.

Despite last year's winter, January and February had the lowest fatalities at 21 and 20.

Meanwhile, the month of September was the deadliest at 38 fatalities.

Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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