To the Editor:
As a resident of rural, northwest Iowa I think that our way of life is often discounted by many who choose to live in more populated urban areas. It's no secret that Iowa's population continues to migrate off the farm and into our metro areas. Should this reduce the attention given to issues that are important to us here? I say absolutely not. As a trooper with the Iowa State Patrol, I value traffic safety among the highest issues important to us here in this part of the state. I have seen all too often what can happen when this issue is pushed aside. That is why I am proud to introduce the 'High 5 Rural Traffic Safety Project' coming to Palo Alto County.
The 'High 5' program is a collaborative effort to increase rural traffic safety in 5 counties in Iowaone of which is Palo Alto County. There are several organizations that will be focusing their efforts on this cause over the next 18 months. The Iowa State Patrol is partnering with the Palo Alto County Sheriff's Office, Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau, Iowa Department of Transportation, Palo Alto County Engineer's Office, and the Federal Highway Administration in this multi-agency approach to improving our safety.
Two main areas were analyzed in choosing these 5 countieslow seatbelt compliance and a high number of crashes on rural roads. Seatbelt use continues to be a major issue in injury prevention. Even though Iowa's statewide compliance percentage (92%) ranks among the top states nationally, over 120,000 Iowan's choose not to buckle up each day. Statistics show that 72% of traffic fatalities in 2012 occurred on Iowa's secondary roads. A large number of previous traffic safety initiatives have been focused on urban or interstate areas. That is part of what makes the 'High 5' effort so different
Many will see this effort as just another chance for law enforcement to write more tickets. Enforcement will certainly be a part of this effort, but hardly the only component. This is another area that separates 'High 5' from its predecessorsa multi-disciplinary approach. This approach is often referred to as the '3 E's of Traffic Safety'. Law enforcement will be stepping up ENFORCEMENT efforts, along with an EDUCATIONAL campaign. Programs are being offered to local schools on traffic safety, and the media will be playing a big role in getting our message of safer roads out to the public. Last, but not least will be the ENGINEERING component. The Department of Transportation will be working closely with the Palo Alto County Engineer's Office and the Federal Highway Administration to make sensible improvements to roads in the county. Patrick Hoye, Bureau Chief of the Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau stated, "Because we are focusing on several different aspects of crash reduction, we believe the HIGH 5 project will be successful in saving lives."
The Iowa State Patrol and its 'High 5' partners would like to remind motorists to do their part in making Palo Alto County roads as safe as they can be. Buckle up, avoid distractions and alcohol, obey the posted speed limit, and drive defensively. Making our roads safer is an issue that we can all agree on, regardless of the urban vs. rural debate.
(signed) Trooper Vince Kurtz
Iowa State Patrol Safety Education