Higher speed limits blamed for increased wrecks

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In 2005, Iowa lawmakers followed a national trend. They raised the rural interstate speed limit from 65 to 70.

“We knew there would be challenges when the speed limit went up,” said Colonel Patrick Hoye with the Iowa State Patrol.

Colonel Hoye says it’s unfortunate, but state troopers’ predictions turned out to be true. 

Since the increase, fatalities have increased 10 percent on rural stretches of interstate.

“Any trooper will tell you the higher the speed limit, the severity of the accident or chance of a fatality goes up,” said Hoye.

It’s not just speed.  There are more vehicles, too.

“When you put high volume, high speeds, and the tendency to follow too closely together, that really is the combination for what we feel is the vice.”

To prevent head-on collisions, troopers and the Iowa DOT say they are working together.

“We know that 1 in 3 fatalities are caused by cross median crashes,” said Jeremy Vortherms, a safety engineer with the Iowa DOT.

Vortherms says the DOT has installed more than 200 miles of cable median barriers, and troopers are stepping up patrol in high crash areas.

“High visibility patrols really do have an effect on traffic patterns and reducing fatalities,” Colonel Hoye told Channel 13 News.

Despite their prediction of more fatalities being proven true, Hoye and Vortherms both think the new speed limit is here to stay.

“There’s evidence from travelers that say they’re comfortable right there and the trucking industry indicates that 70 is a good place for them to be,” said Vortherms.

(thanks to our sister station WHO-TV for this report)