The number of fatal vehicle accidents in the Fort Dodge area decreased in 2013, statistics that reflect a statewide trend.
Last year, 14 people were killed in 12 motor vehicle accidents in Iowa State Patrol's District 7. It includes Webster, Calhoun, Hamilton, Humboldt, Wright, Pocahontas and Kossuth counties.
In 2012, 17 people were killed in 15 accidents in District 7.
-Messenger file photo
Iowa State Patrol Trooper Justin Parman checks the driver’s license of someone who was speeding on U.S. Highway 20 in 2013. Stepped up patrols are believed to be just one reason that the number of fatalities across the region — and the state — have decreased.
Lt. Kelly Hindman, District 7 commander, said the data reflects what happened statewide.
"For the state there were 317 fatalities, which was down 42 from the year before," Hindman said. "That's also the lowest number of fatalities since 1944 and represents a historically low number statewide."
He said several factors have been responsible for the decrease in fatalities.
"One thing we attribute to the lower number is safer vehicles," he said. "Another is modifications that have been made to the roadways to make them safer."
Over the past few years, Hindman said the ISP has worked more closely with county engineers and the Iowa Department of Transportation to make the roads safer.
"We've worked to identify areas where barricades, fencing and signage would be helpful," he said.
One of those modifications is known as a center-lane rumble strip. They are placed in the middle of the road and make a noise that alerts the driver that they're going over the center line.
"They're popping up all over the place," Hindman said. "We have them between Fort Dodge and our office in Coalville on the curves. They're meant to keep people from leaving their lane."
According to Hindman, a number of fatal crashes are due to what he called "lane deviation."
"We believe the underlying cause is attributable to distracted driving," he said. "More people are on their phones and wandering in and out of their lanes."
Another possible reason why 2012 saw more fatalities than last year was due to warmer weather.
"We had far fewer motorcycle fatalities last year," Hindman said. "There was a very long riding season in 2012 because it was warm in the spring and people got on their motorcycles much earlier than normal. This year there was a shorter riding season and fewer fatalities."
The ISP has also stepped up its efforts.
"Whenever we can, we try to target our enforcement efforts to areas where we get the most collisions," he said.
In District 7, Hindman said investigators found impaired drivers and elderly drivers. were common factors in most fatal collisions.
"It's also not uncommon for us to see accidents at stop sign intersections," he said. "Some of them were people who flat-out didn't stop and some were people who stopped and were struck as they pulled out."
To prevent fatal accidents, Hindman said the ISP works on education to help prevent fatal crashes.
"We work on younger drivers to educate them on the perils of driving while impaired and how dangerous it is," he said. "We also try to focus our efforts on areas where people try to congregate."
One goal the ISP is considering is stepping up enforcement during the middle of the week when people are out at the bars.
"It gives us room for us to improve in that area and have a greater presence," he said. "One of our goals is to work in that scenario where we might have some impact."