High Five Rural Traffic Safety Project to Begin

Written by Theresa Rose on September 30, 2015

DES MOINES, IOWA –Alarming statistics involving fatalities on Iowa’s rural roadways has cause for major concern. That is why the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau (GTSB) is once again launching a year-long targeted traffic safety project in five rural counties to reduce rural fatalities.

In 2014, 78.35% of fatalities in Iowa occurred on rural roads. Approximately 79% of Iowa’s total roadways are considered rural in nature.

Beginning October 1, 2015, five county sheriffs and the Iowa State Patrol will begin special efforts through an initiative identified as “High Five Rural Traffic Safety Project” (High Five) to focus on traffic safety on Iowa’s rural roadways. After reviewing five (5) years of crash data and looking at counties with low seat belt compliance rates, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau (GTSB), along with a multi-disciplinary team of traffic safety professionals, selected five rural counties to participate in this project.

The counties participating in the project include Boone, Jackson, Lee, Monona, and Poweshiek. The High Five project will involve a three-tier approach to include enforcement, engineering and education, with the ultimate goal of building 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.

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. The road surface types and speeds also vary. Patrick Hoye, Bureau Chief of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau stated, “Because the High Five project is focusing on several key aspects of crash reduction we are confident this innovative program will be successful in saving lives.”

Enforcement efforts on roadways with higher volumes are common, but with Iowa’s rural fatality rate above the national average, the need to have a special program focusing coordinated efforts on rural safety has become apparent.

The High Five project in the aforementioned counties will begin October 1, 2015 and will conclude on September 30, 2016. Funding for overtime enforcement efforts is provided by Federal Highway Safety Grants administered through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Iowa Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau (GTSB).

The “High Five Rural Traffic Safety Project” originated in April 2014. The initial counties participating in the project included Allamakee, Fremont, Marion, Palo Alto, and Webster. In the first year of the project each county recorded an increase in seat belt usage with the most significant increase occurring in Allamakee County where an increase of 42.62% occurred between April 2014 (61%) and April 2015 (87%).