Iowa DOT awarded top honors for safety leadership

CakeSafety is first on the list of the Iowa Department of Transportation’s core values. When it comes to putting those values into practice, the agency is one of our country’s leading transportation groups. Just ask the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Standing Committee on Highway Traffic Safety. That group recently presented the Iowa DOT with the 2015 AASHTO Safety Leadership Award, citing the success shown by a continued decline in the state's traffic fatalities. The award announcement said the Iowa DOT "demonstrates its leadership in safety through its commitment to pilot new programs and strategies, continue supporting successful activities, and communicating the safety message throughout the state and the DOT.” And continued with, "Strong leadership throughout the DOT has been key to its safety success, seen in the continued decline in fatalities in Iowa."

Eleven state DOTs submitted applications for this year's competition. The annual award recognizes a state that has made significant improvements in safety by showing leadership in safety, strong safety partnerships and strategic planning, and innovation in safety. Committee Chairman Rudy Malfabon, secretary of Nevada DOT, presented the award at the annual meeting in Chicago to Iowa DOT Director Paul Trombino.

The award citation listed a number of Iowa efforts to improve roadway safety, including expanded use of interstate cable median guardrail, adding paved shoulders to our roadways, placing more miles of shoulder and centerline rumble strips, and our expanded use of intelligent transportation systems. It also said that "a traffic safety communications program is key to the success in Iowa," noting that "public awareness of traffic safety strategies" would be a key to improving driver behavior.

For instance, the Iowa DOT uses a "Message Monday" program to post traffic safety messages on dynamic message boards along roadways across the state. "Staff are encouraged to develop creative messages that help start conversations about safety, increase visitors to social media sites, and increase media attention on safety," the announcement said.

Message Monday is just one part of the larger Zero Fatalities effort joining the Iowa departments of Transportation, Public Safety, and Public Health all in tandem to end traffic fatalities. Each agency has initiatives of its own, but all work toward the common goal of Zero Fatalities.

Steve Gent, director of the Office of Traffic and Safety, said, “This is an amazing award for the Iowa DOT to receive, but what really matters is that fewer Iowa families are having to cope with serious injuries and deaths each year. Just 10 years ago we were averaging 427 fatalities each year on Iowa roadways. Over the past three years, we averaged 320 fatalities. That’s an impressive reduction, but we have a lot of work to do. ”

Group shot
Members of the Iowa DOT's safety teams celebrated the AASHTO leadership award.

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