Marion County, four others to pilot the program
According to data from the Iowa Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau, in 2012, 72 percent of fatal crashes in Iowa occurred on secondary rural roads. Approximately 79 percent of Iowa’s total roadways are considered secondary in nature. Due to these alarming statistics, rural safety has become a major concern.
“From 2004 to 2013 we’ve had 34 fatalities on secondary rural roads in the county,” Marion County Sheriff Jason Sandholdt said.
Beginning April 1, a new initiative identified as “High Five Rural Traffic Safety Project” was launched to focus on traffic safety on Iowa’s rural roadways. After reviewing 10 years of crash data and looking at counties with low seat belt compliance rates, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau along with a multi-disciplinary team of traffic safety professionals selected five rural counties to participate in this project.
“This is an inactive from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau,” Patrick Hoye, Bureau Chief of the Governor’s Traffic Safety said. “We are taking a look at crash data from around the state. We’ve been looking for a rural roads project that we could help reduce fatalities in serious crashes. That’s where this program came about. It’s data driven and will take a look at where crashes are happening. We selected Marion County as one of the five to start this program in. We’ve decided to focus on three key elements. One is the enforcement level (of seatbelt use). The other is engineering aspects to roads and the third is the educational piece and making people aware of the importance of the project and hopefully to help them change their driving attitude.”
The counties participating in the project include Marion, Allamakee, Webster, Fremont and Palo Alto. The High Five project will involve a three-tier approach to include enforcement, engineering and education with the ultimate goal to build a safer community. Through enforcement, media, and community outreach, participating agencies will work to educate drivers on the benefits of complying with traffic laws with an emphasis on Iowa’s seat belt law. From an engineering aspect, the focus will be to identify low cost safety improvements throughout the county.