Fewer fatal accidents seen in area

A statewide trend of fewer fatal traffic accidents this year is being reflected locally, where officials are seeing less deaths on the road.

So far this year, eight people have died in motor vehicle accidents that have occurred in the seven-county area of Iowa State Patrol’s Post 7.

Lt. Kelly Hindman, District Commander for Post 7, said the decrease in fatalities in not just the area but also the state reflects a “positive trend.”

While it’s hard to pinpoint an exact cause for the decrease, Hindman said one reason might be stepped up enforcement by the State Patrol.

“Moreso than ever before we’ve really been trying to drive enforcement efforts towards those areas where there are violations that tend to cause fatal collisions,” he said. “We have so much access to instant data and information that we didn’t have before, and part of that may have driven this change.”

He added that it’s also possible that efforts at educating drivers on the dangers of drinking or using drugs while driving are starting to pay off.

“We’ve really tried to create an awareness of the dangers of that, and I think that’s been helpful,” Hindman said. “Also, every year vehicles have more safety features added. That has likely helped that the vehicles people are in are safer than they’ve been before.”

Of the fatal accidents in the Post 7 area, two were caused by people who didn’t obey a stop sign, two were head-on collisions, one was a single-vehicle accident that involved alcohol and another driver was hit by a train. The most recent fatal car accident was caused when the driver of the car lost control and rolled over. Two people died in that accident.

Hindman said law enforcement and transportation officials are looking at different ways of preventing head-on collision accidents. One method at prevention recently made its debut on the recently repaved Nelson Avenue, which goes from Fort Dodge to Coalville.

“The county has installed center line rumble strips throughout the curvy areas of that road,” Hindman said. “It’s an engineering technique to make the roads safer so that when somebody starts to cross the center line they have a warning.”

It’s believed that many head-on collisions are caused by distracted drivers.

“We attribute fair amount of that to distractions of all kinds, cell phones being the most prevalent,” he said. “We’re hoping that in those areas we’ve identified as a problem that drivers will nudge the center line rumble strips so they’ll be alerted.”

Because the State Patrol wants to keep the number of fatalities low for the rest of the year, Hindman said a number of enforcement exercises have been happening throughout the past few months.

“Across I-80, Iowa organized a special eight-day project the last week of July,” Hindman said. “State troopers and other officers from California to New York put out a special enforcement trying to reduce fatalities.”

Hindman said that area typically sees about eight fatalities during that time period. This year, there were only two.

“Hopefully efforts like that will help,” he said.

Last year, Hindman said it’s believed the unseasonably warm weather led to more fatal accidents, particularly among motorcyclists.

“A year ago we had such mild winter that people were on motorcycles, even in February,” he said. “This year has been more of a typical year.”

He added that he’s hopeful the low number of fatalities will continue.

“It’s nice that we’ve gotten through both Memorial Day and the Fourth of July weekend in our area without any fatalities,” he said. “That’s certainly our goal, and hopefully people will be attentive as to their driving. It’s certainly a positive trend.”