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The second-day story, with your help. Call Gazette reporter Adam Belz at (319) 398-8273 or e-mail him: adam.belz@gazcomm.com

Is the recession saving lives on Iowa roads?

As of yesterday, 88 people had died in car and truck crashes this year in Iowa.

That’s fewer fatalities by April 21 than in 2008, 2007, 2006 or 2005. It puts the state on a pace similar to 2004, when 388 people died on Iowa roads, the lowest number since World War II. (A monthly death count from 1938 to 2007 is available here.)

Scott Falb, a researcher for the Iowa DOT, thinks people are driving less — and driving slower — in 2009 because of the recession.

“I think they’re being a little more cautious with gasoline and it’s having an effect on their safety as well,” he said. “The same things that save you gasoline save lives out there as well.”

The worst year for Iowa traffic deaths was 1970, when 912 people died. Since then have come lower speed limits, child safety restraint laws and tougher drunk driving laws. Deaths have steadily declined.

The sharpest decline in fatalities was between 1981 and 1982, which reinforces Falb’s hypothesis about recessions and driver safety.

In 1982, the U.S. suffered its worst economic downturn since the Great Depression (up to that point).

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Filed under: 19467006, Public Safety, , , ,

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