Fatal accidents increase in 2018

District 7 sees distracted driving as the No. 1 reason for an increase in road fatalities

This is no statistic to be proud of: The number of fatal traffic accidents handled by District 7 of the Iowa State Patrol increased by 10 in 2018.

Last year, 23 fatal accidents were investigated by the ISP, according to Lt. Mark Miller, District 7 commander.

The result was the death of 26 people.

That’s a troubling number for a seven-county district that is largely rural.

But what is more troubling that it appears most of the accidents that led to those 26 deaths were caused by distracted driving.

Here are the numbers provided by the Iowa State Patrol:

In Webster County, 10 people died.

Pocahontas County, 5;

Hamilton County, 4;

Humboldt County, 4;

Calhoun County, 2;

Wright County, 1;

Kossuth County, 0.

What is distracted driving?

Say you drop that cheeseburger you just got and it lands in front of the passenger’s seat and there’s no passenger. Pull over and stop before retrieving that burger. To do otherwise is distracted driving.

Any phone calls?


Drop that cigarette into the console?


Kids threatening to riot?


Did Aunt Mel text a photo of the family reunion? Pull over and stop if you really need to look at it now.

Otherwise, you’re distracted.

Miller recently helped compile data on District 7 fatal accidents that spans the past decade. In those 10 years, 144 accidents happened in rural environments.

“In 78 percent of those 144 accidents, a driver was distracted in some way,” he said, “whether it was operating the radio, reaching for something, distracted by somebody else in the vehicle, or using their cell phones. They were distracted by something and their attention was pulled from that highway. That’s a pretty high number.”

The second most common factor was failure to wear a seat belt: 67 percent of the accidents in 10 years.

The No. 3 most common cause of fatal crashes was speeding.

“Things go bad really fast when they go bad,” Miller said.

The Messenger agrees.

Don’t speed.

Wear your seatbelt.

And stay focused on your driving.

None the above are worth a life.