While COVID-19 continues to keep many people at home and traveling less, nationally and in Iowa, there has been an increase in motorists who are seeing more open roads as an opportunity to drive aggressively. A pattern of dangerously high speeds on Iowa roadways is a disturbing and hazardous traffic trend that has emerged during the pandemic. These are extreme speeds that can lead to disastrous consequences not only heading into a long holiday weekend, but also as the volume of daily traffic is expected to gradually increase with summer vacation trips and more people returning to workplaces.
Recent data released from the Iowa State Patrol, tracking speeding violations from January 1 through June 10, 2020, shows 1,635 drivers exceeded the speed limit by 25 mph or more. That’s a 65% increase compared to the four-year average. Citations for these speeds in the months of April and May alone totaled 912 compared to 764 violations for the three previous months combined.
The data shows the most common speeding violators represent a younger demographic primarily consisting of males between the ages of 14 and 29 years of age. The highest rate of noncompliance with posted speed limits occurred on Saturday afternoons. One of the most alarming patterns in the data identifies that nearly one-third of the violations during that time period were for speeds that exceeded 100 mph. Violations for these flagrant speeds have increased 84% compared to the four-year average. Troopers routinely clocked speeds as high as 121 to 155 mph as drivers have found less congested roadways.
Iowans are not alone in aggressive driving behaviors. The Patrol’s data revealed that 60% of the violators are out-of-state drivers. Neighboring states are also experiencing patterns of excessive speeding, and states like Minnesota, Missouri and Louisiana are seeing those behaviors accompanied by higher fatality crash rates.
“These traffic trends are alarming and unprecedented,” says Iowa State Patrol Commander Colonel Nathan Fulk. “High speeds are not only making our Iowa roadways less safe on a daily basis for all of us, but speeding is one of the leading contributing factors in fatality crashes. We need motorists to understand that this type of driving behavior is not the new normal.”
The Iowa Department of Public Safety, Iowa State Patrol, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau, and the Iowa Department of Transportation are collaborating on tactics to help bring awareness to the issue, and encourage personal responsibility in keeping Iowa’s roadways safe, including a public awareness campaign kicking off around the July 4th holiday.