“When seat belt compliance rates go up, crash fatalities go down” Hoye said. “We are convinced it’s the single most important thing a driver can do when they get in the vehicle.”
During 2013, there were 317 fatalities in the state of Iowa. Although a record low number of fatalities for the state, every one is tragic and 317 is still too many. In addition to fatalities it is also important to recognize the number of serious injuries sustained in traffic crashes. The county sheriffs and county engineers within the High Five counties and the Iowa State Patrol are conscientious safety advocates who understand rural roads are unique because they are shared by a variety of vehicle types from passenger vehicles to large machinery and other farm implements traveling at slower speeds.
“I know a lot of times, when people see someone pulled over they think it’s just another ‘money maker’ for the county,” Sandholdt said. “That is not it at all, If my deputies aren’t pulling someone over for not wearing seat belts that’s great. That means people are wearing them. That will save lives. In the next 10 years we can lower that number, I will take the grief people will have if we are pulling people over. Public safety is critical. It’s not just the enforcement, but the educational piece. If people realize the importance of searing their seat belt, that makes my job easier.”
Enforcement efforts on roadways with higher volumes are common, but with Iowa’s percentage of rural fatalities above the national average the need to have a special program focusing coordinated efforts on rural safety has become apparent.
“We want to minimize the fatalities in the county,” Sandholdt stressed
The High Five project will conclude on September 30, 2015.
“This motivates me to give this a try and if we can be on the leading edge of saving lives, that’s great,” Sandholdt said. “We have a lot of users from out of the county that visit. If they know when they come to Marion County that have to wear their seat belt, maybe they will take that home and wear in there too.”