Traffic deaths in Iowa hit a 5-year high in 2021, and according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, officials aren't necessarily singling out the usual reasons.
Preliminary figures say there were 353 traffic deaths and a final count could reveal even more. That is the highest number since 2017 with 402 fatalities, and while impaired and distracted driving is increasing and seat belt use is decreasing, there is another issue at work.
Two years in, "COVID fatigue" could be a danger on the roads
Steve Gent of the Iowa Department of Transportation thinks some motorists are legitimately "rebelling" in a dangerous way. After two years of being "told what to do and not to do" as it relates to the coronavirus pandemic, are we taking it out on our cars, our roads, and our fellow motorists, not to mention ourselves by going out there "joyriding"?
Gent wasn't quite that blunt but did point to evidence that this is happening nationwide.
You get in a car and you’re free. You’re by yourself. There are no rules. You finally get that freedom, and I think the whole sense is maybe a little, ‘Hey, I can do whatever I want here.’ People are feeling and maybe just acting out a little bit against this (pandemic).
The most fatal month was the one that leads out of Spring and into summer
The weather in May marks the beginning of the transitioning from Spring to Summer, so it can be the perfect recipe for that sort of "acting out", as Gent calls it, especially since we finally started to feel like things were getting back to normal (before they started taking things away again...will this ever end? Therein lies the issue). So it's not necessarily surprising that was the most fatal month on the roads in 2021, with 43.
There's data to back it up
Of course, Gent isn't just opining. The numbers are backed up by data from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau to show increased speeding activity and decreased seat belt use and from the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division to show increased alcohol use while driving.