Iowa DOT: 25 traffic deaths reported last month

The Iowa Department of Transportation has set aside millions of dollars to improve traffic safety around the state/KTVO

The Iowa Department of Transportation has set aside millions of dollars to improve traffic safety around the state.

The department counted 25 traffic fatalities this year alone. That's five more than this time last year.

Iowa DOT Traffic Safety Engineer Jan Laaser-Webb said the department is now targeting Iowa’s rural highways due to a high crash volume.

“They have higher speeds out there," Laaser-Webb said. "We’re farther away from trauma centers out there."

DOT data also shows of the 1,672 Iowa crashes reported in 2018 so far, 81 were caused by a distracted driver.

"If you take your eyes off the road just for a few seconds to text, to dial a telephone number or just using a handheld device, you travel a long way and you never know when someone's going to walk out in front of you,” said Ottumwa Police Chief Tom McAndrew. “There's people that are using their cell phone and they look down and they don't realize they're turning their steering wheel and they go off the side of the road or they go across the center line and it's extremely dangerous."

Each year, the Iowa DOT spends close to a half a million dollars on safety awareness campaigns; commercials and signs remind drivers to keep their eyes on the road.

The department's efforts to improve safety date back to the 1990s. During that time, engineers completed a study that tested the use of raised pavement markers. The reflective devices, most commonly used in southern states, are designed to improve nighttime visibility.

"What we learned also from other states that were using the raised pavement markers more than Iowa is that, the markers would become dislodged by traffic or snow plows and in some cases, they would also become projectiles,” said Iowa DOT Transportation Planner Hector Torres-Cacho. “So essentially, Iowa DOT, for the safety of motorist, is not permanently installing the raised pavement markers.

Until the RPMs are equipped for snow, Laaser-Webb said the department will stick to rumble strips.

"It shakes your car a little bit and makes a noise and gets you back," Laaser-Webb said.

So whether you're drowsey….

"Or because you're distracted by the radio, by your phone," Laaser-Webb said.

…the rumble strips are designed to keep you in line.

"And we've heard really good anecdotes from people in the snow, who have said hey, those rumbles helped keep me where I needed to be until I could get home," Laaser-Webb said.

Overall, the Iowa DOT has set aside about $25 million for its Traffic Safety Improvement Program.

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