Law enforcement aims to reduce traffic deaths on holiday

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There were 73 crash fatalities nationwide over the 2018 St. Patrick's Day holiday, with 39% involving drivers who were drunk.

DES MOINES, Iowa – If you are heading out to a St. Patrick’s Day celebration this year, make sure to have more than just the luck o’ the Irish on your side.

The March 17 holiday is the first of four traffic enforcement waves identified around the most unlucky and deadly times of the year on Iowa’s roadways. It also represents the kick-off to a comprehensive year-long campaign to support traffic fatality reduction.

The Iowa departments of Public Safety and Transportation along with members of the Iowa Police Chief’s Association, Iowa State Sheriffs’ and Deputies’ Association, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Iowa State University and AAA of Iowa/Minnesota have teamed up to form the Iowa Traffic Fatality Reduction Task Force to focus on enforcement, engineering and education to reduce the number of traffic fatalities.

In a statement issued Monday, the task force said its goal is to educate and empower drivers to change dangerous driving behaviors and also to create new programs, policies and processes to foster a safer traffic system that can impact everyone on the road. The  “Drive Safe Iowa: The Power Is In Your Hands” campaign also introduces a communications effort that reinforces messages about the common risk factors that drivers face on the road, the statement said.

“The eventual goal for fatalities is ZERO, but the incremental goal for 2021 is 300, down from 338 in 2020,” said Task Force Chair and Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau Chief Patrick Hoye. “If achieved, this will be the first time Iowa traffic fatalities are under 300 lives since 1925.”

Hoye said that in reviewing traffic data over the past 10 years, task force members were able to identify four time periods when Iowa sees significant numbers of traffic fatalities. The dates and driving behaviors providing the framework for enforcement efforts include:

ENFORCEMENT WAVES:

• March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day) – Focusing on seatbelt and impaired driving.
• June 9-12 (Father’s Day) Focusing on impaired driving.
• Sept. 16 – Focusing on excessive speeding.
• Oct. 2-4 – Focusing on distracted driving.

“The Iowa State Patrol is in full support of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau’s efforts to reduce traffic fatalities in 2021,” said Iowa State Patrol Colonel Nathan Fulk. “We feel that teamwork and collaboration with our local, county and state law enforcement partners is vital to the success of this initiative. We are asking drivers to slow down, buckle up and put the phone down. Drive safe Iowa, the power is in your hands.”

As the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s traffic safety division, the Iowa State Patrol, with assistance from the Iowa DOT’s Motor Vehicle Division, will lead the statewide efforts in conducting this Wednesday’s special enforcement initiative geared toward seat belt compliance and the reduction of impaired drivers on the St. Patrick’s Day holiday.

Motorists should be aware that St. Patrick’s Day can be unlucky whether or not you’re Irish:

• In Iowa, March 17 is typically one of the biggest drinking nights of the year and, unfortunately, that means more impaired drivers on the roads.

• In 2019 in Iowa, there were two crashes over the holiday, which killed four people. Drunk driving accounts for nearly one-third of vehicle-related fatalities in Iowa and in the U.S.

• Nationally, in 2018 alone, 73 people (39% of all crash fatalities) were killed in drunk-driving crashes over the St. Patrick’s Day holiday period, and 33% of the pedestrians aged 16 and older who were killed in crashes had a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit.

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