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State Patrol citing twice as many speeders this year

contributed photo This driver was stopped Friday night on Interstate 880 heading to Des Moines. The Iowa State Patrol clocked the driver going 121 mph.

When the COVID-19 lockdowns began in March and many started working from home, the Iowa State Patrol expected to see a drop in traffic related fatalities and citations this year.

It was true, at least for awhile, but Sergeant Alex Dinkla said the trend didn’t last long.

“We saw almost a 50 percent reduction from the previous year in traffic,” he said of February and March traffic. “We’re still seeing a high volume of motoring public. We’re seeing a high volume of excessive speeds.”

Dinkla said there has been a 108 percent increase in speeding citations this year over the four-year average. Citations of motorists going 25 mph over the speed limit or more have increased 80 percent. Patrol officers are clocking speeds of 140 and even 155 mph.

But why are motorists in such a hurry? According to Dinkla there is some belief the coronavirus makes officers hesitant to pull people over. This is not the case.

Patrol officers are equipped with personal protective equipment for use during interactions with the public. Dinkla said most interactions are only a couple minutes long but officers have everything they need to take precautions.

“That was one of the No. 1 excuses the motoring public has been giving is they didn’t think we were out and about,” he said. “Our officers can’t work from home. Their office is their car. Law enforcement officers are out there trying to protect the motoring public and doing our job.”

Despite a brief lull in traffic early in the year, traffic fatalities are up about 9 percent. As of Tuesday, 295 motorists have died in Iowa this year.

“Forty-three percent of people killed did not have a seatbelt on,” Dinkla said. “Had they had a seatbelt on they would have had a greater chance to survive.”

“Early on the early indication was fatalities were going to be down because traffic volume was down,” he added. “Some of people’s driving behavior – we believe that contributes to some of these fatalities. We’ve seen drastic increases in the last couple months.”

The Iowa State Patrol increases enforcement on holiday weekends and this one won’t be any different. The week of Thanksgiving and following weekend is one of the busiest traveling times of the year.

The increase in travel for the holiday seems on par with what it has been in previous years Dinkla said, in spite of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds urging Iowans to celebrate Thanksgiving with their household members.

“I’m not sure where everybody is going this year but Thanksgiving travel is typically one of the busiest of the year,” Dinkla said.

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Contact Joe Fisher at 641-753-6611 or jfisher@timesrepublican.com

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