(Council Bluffs) — While the Memorial Day weekend is still two weeks away, Iowa State Patrol officials are already anticipating heavy traffic on the roads this summer.
Triple A projects more than 37 million Americans will travel during the five-day holiday period–most of which on the roads. That’s a 60% increase over Memorial Day weekend last year, when a good portion of the country was under lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Trooper Ryan DeVault is public education officer for the Iowa State Patrol’s Council Bluffs post. Speaking on KMA’s “Morning Line” program Friday morning, DeVault says the roadways should be busy now that some coronavirus-related restrictions have been lifted.
“We definitely expect to see an increase in traffic,” said DeVault. “I think people kind of have a sense of urgency to kind of open things up a little bit more. With vaccinations and things that are taking place, I think people are feeling more comfortable about getting out in public, maybe going and having those family get-togethers, things like that.
Statistically, Memorial Day weekend is tied for second with Independence Day in terms of holiday traffic fatalities in Iowa. That’s why DeVault is reminding motorists of some traffic safety tips heading into summer. The number-one tip for drivers is to have patience on the roads. And, give yourself plenty of distance between vehicles.
“You know, a lot of the actions that we see here out on the roadways, those can be prevented by increasing that following distance between you and the car in front of you,” said DeVault. “If you’re behind the car, you should always be running those scenarios through your mind of, you know, if this would happen, what would I do. Kind of an if-when kind of thinking. Defensive driving–always being prepared for the unexpected.”
DeVault also reminds motorists and passengers to wear their seat belts. Of the 81 traffic fatalities in Iowa thus far this year, 52 were individuals not wearing safety belts.
“That’s within the driver’s control, and the passenger’s control, to put that seat belt on, to potentially save that life,” he said. “It’s not even a skill. A lot of people talk about somebody being a good driver, a bad driver. It has nothing to do with skill at that point. It’s just as simple as grabbing that seat belt, and making sure you buckle up before you hit the road.”
Another safety tip is to keep your mind on the road, and avoid distractions.
“You know, we at the Iowa State Patrol are just trying to encourage people just how important, as well as dangerous, the skill of driving can be,” said DeVault. “Your number-one focus needs to be on what you’re doing, which is driving. If you can limit those distractions that are taking place inside your vehicle, give yourself plenty of travel time. Leave plenty early. Don’t put yourself in that rush situation where, all of sudden, you’re seeing that aggressive tailgate driving, because you’re running late to your destination.”
With excessive speed still an issue on Iowa’s roads, DeVault implores motorists to slow down and obey speed limits. And, as always, don’t drink and drive. You can hear the full interview with Ryan DeVault here: