North Idaho receives funding to combat multi-substance impaired driving

Many officers and a police 59 stand for a group photo.

North Idaho’s DUI Task Force has received a $28,750 grant from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the National Alliance to Stop Impaired Driving (NASID), and Responsibility.org to stop multi-substance impaired drivers. This funding will train more drug recognition experts (DREs) and law-enforcement phlebotomists, giving officers better tools to detect and remove impaired drivers from our roads.

The North Idaho DUI Task Force is a coalition of 15 regional law enforcement agencies representing jurisdictions in all five northern counties of the panhandle. They work together and with partners like the Idaho Office of Highway Safety (OHS) to stop impaired drivers in the region.

In 2023 the task force worked 12 joint operations during suspected DUI peak events and hours like evenings and weekends. Those enforcement operations coincided with community outreach aimed at educating drivers about the dangers of impaired driving before they get behind the wheel. For example, during the targeted enforcement on New Year’s Eve 2023, the task force made 30 DUI arrests, responded to one DUI crash and there were no DUI-related fatalities, showing that their efforts are saving lives.

Sergeant Troy Tulleners from Idaho State Police (ISP) District One highlighted the importance of collaboration in enhancing public safety. “The Idaho State Police is proud to work with local law enforcement and the Office of Highway Safety. By pooling resources and expertise, we ensure a comprehensive approach to traffic safety.”

The new grant will improve the capacity of local law enforcement to address multi-substance impaired driving. More trained DREs and law-enforcement phlebotomists will lead to safer roads and fewer collisions, protecting lives in North Idaho.

“Our law enforcement partners in Idaho and across the country are doing everything they can to address impaired driving and make our roads safer, but they face an incredible challenge and need our support,” said GHSA Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Adkins. “GHSA’s decade-long partnership with Responsibility.org and NASID helps provide law enforcement with the resources they need to identify impaired drivers, making our roads safer for everyone.

Sergeant Tulleners emphasized the success of partnerships in reducing collisions and improving road safety. “Together, we have made significant strides in making our roads safer. This grant funding will bolster the Task Force members’ efforts during peak enforcement times in hopes of lowering the respective fatalities. Furthermore, it will be utilized to bolster the capabilities and training of officers, on or off the task force, in recognizing and stopping impaired drivers every shift.“

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About GHSA

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management, and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Visit ghsa.org for more information or find us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Responsibility.org

Responsibility.org is a national not-for-profit that aims to eliminate drunk driving and work with others to end all impaired driving, eliminate underage drinking, and empower adults to make a lifetime of responsible alcohol choices. Responsibility.org is funded by the following distillers: Bacardi USA, Inc.; Beam Suntory Inc.; Brown-Forman; Campari Group; Constellation Brands; DIAGEO; Edrington, Hotaling & Co.; Mast-Jägermeister US, Inc.; Moët Hennessy USA; Ole Smoky, LLC; Pernod Ricard USA; and William Grant & Sons. For more than 30 years, Responsibility.org has transformed countless lives through programs that bring individuals, families, and communities together to inspire a lifetime of responsible alcohol choices. To learn more, please visit Responsibility.org.

About NASID

The National Alliance to Stop Impaired Driving is a coalition established and led by Responsibility.org to eliminate all forms of impaired driving, especially multiple substance impaired driving, through effective and proven measures such as DUI system reform, DUI detection, and improved use of data and technology. To learn more visit NASID.org.

Work begins to resurface US-2 from US-95 to Montana

 

On May 28 the Idaho Transportation Department will begin resurfacing U.S. Highway 2 starting at its junction with U.S. Highway 95 east to the Montana state line. This project will improve safety and the drivers’ experience with a smooth new surface.

Crews will begin at the junction and work east through fall, often during both daytime and nighttime hours. Traffic will be reduced to a single lane.

Pilot cars will be utilized to guide alternating lanes of traffic through the active work zone.

Drivers should anticipate delays in travel ranging from 15 to 30 minutes, and plan accordingly.

Throughout the course of this project, crews will be grinding down the top layer of asphalt and replacing the paved surface to correct deficiencies and soft spots from US-95 to the Moyie Bridge.

East of Moyie Bridge a more comprehensive restructuring process will take place beyond milling down through the base layer of the highway to fully reconstruct the road base and driving surface. This process—known as Cement Recycled Asphalt Based Stabilization, or CRABS—is both efficient and cost effective.

“We pulverize the existing asphalt, mix in cement to help stabilize and strengthen the mixture to use as a base, and then we pave over top of that,” Project Manager Megan Koski said.

The Port of Entry station at Three Mile Junction will also be reconstructed and is expected to experience intermittent, temporary interruptions of service as the asphalt is being reconstructed at their current location. As an alternate, people may contact the Huetter Port of Entry for permits, registrations, or questions at (208) 769-1551.

Travelers are encouraged to use the Idaho 511 system for updated traffic impacts through the construction season.

Work begins to improve ride on SH-54 east of Athol

 

Work begins today on SH-54 east of Athol on a minor paving improvement project ahead of sealcoat work later this summer.

The Idaho Transportation Department is adding a thin layer of pavement to the right, outside lanes of travel to help smooth the driving surface and improve the ride.

Crews started near Athol and are working in the eastbound, outside lane with this mobile operation. Once they reach Farragut State Park they will then turn around and work back towards Athol on the outside, westbound lane.

During construction one lane in both directions will remain open for travel, with a mandatory speed reduction to 45 mph and intermittent flagging.

This project is expected to be complete by next Wednesday, with contractors scheduled to return mid-July to protect and seal the entire width of the roadway.

Work underway on I-90 near Fourth of July Pass

Aerial view of I-90 near Cataldo looking east

 

CATALDO — Construction started Monday to finish paving and installing new barrier on 6 miles of Interstate 90 east of Fourth of July Pass to Cataldo.
Until work ends in June, the speed limit will be reduced to 55 miles per hour, and traffic will be reduced to a single lane in both directions.

Construction first began in 2022 to resurface the freeway, widen the inside shoulder and install concrete barrier to separate the lanes to prevent head-on collisions.

Travelers are encouraged to be aware of other work zones on I-90 and are advised to check 511.idaho.gov.

ITD and Idaho Parks and Rec team up to improve safety on SH-5 near Heyburn State Park

Messaging sign alerting drivers on SH-5 about upcoming lane closures

 

Starting next week crews will begin removing hazard trees along a 5-mile stretch of State Highway 5 near Heyburn State Park. Work will begin near Hillwood Lane and move west to Chatcolet Road over the course of four to five weeks with the highway reduced to one lane during the day in the work zone.

While the tree clearing operation is underway, ITD will provide flaggers and a pilot car to safely guide traffic through the work zone.

Work will occur on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and will take a scheduled break on May 23, 24 and 28 to avoid slowing down increased traffic surrounding Memorial Weekend.

“Any tree within reach of the highway that is compromised, whether due to its health or stability, is considered a hazard due to the potential of falling onto traffic,” Project Manager James Dorman said.

To complete this work, ITD is collaborating with the Idaho Parks and Recreation Department who is working with foresters and a local contractor to identify potentially hazardous trees for removal.

“Idaho Parks and Recreation is excited for this partnership and the opportunity to focus on safety for Idaho’s drivers and recreators alike,” stated Parks Public Information Officer Craig Quintana. “The trees that have been identified for removal are on Heyburn State Park property, but the safety concern involves ITD right of way.”

Drivers should plan ahead for delays and use the Idaho 511 system for updates.

Final push to complete construction of two I-90 overpasses in Kellogg

Aerial view of I-90 over the Division Street Bridge in Kellogg, looking east.

 

Next week the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) will start the final construction tasks to improve safety on I-90 at the Division Street and Elizabeth Park Road overpasses.

Crews will remove the temporary pavement that was placed in 2022 and finish the driving surface for the eastbound bridges. They will also address drainage on the westbound bridge over Division Street.

Construction is anticipated to start April 29, at which time traffic on I-90 will be restricted to one lane in each direction and crossed over the westbound lanes for up to two months. No impacts are expected for Division Street or Elizabeth Park Road.

In the past two years, crews have replaced the eastbound and westbound bridges, widened the eastbound on-ramp at Division Street, and repaved both Division Street and Elizabeth Park Road under the overpasses.

Additionally, improvements to the eastbound bridge over Pine Creek in Pinehurst are anticipated to start in late May. I-90 will be reduced to one lane in each direction for approximately one month as crews remove and replace the concrete surface.

Speed limits for both construction zones will be reduced to 55 mph for the safety of drivers and workers.

Visit 511.idaho.gov or download the app for statewide traffic information.

Planned traffic impacts for US-95 near McArthur Lake starting next week

Bridge abutments and the pier, which serve as foundations for the bridge itself, are nearing completion on US Highway 95 near McArthur Lake. Once these are finished the next step in construction of the two-span bridge will be placement of the steel girders, which are support beams that span between the abutments and the center pier and support the concrete driving surface above.

A total of 8 steel girders will be placed, 4 at each span. The girders measure approximately 150 feet long, weigh approximately 69,000 pounds each, and will require the use of a large crane to lift and set them into place.

TRAFFIC IMPACT ALERT

Starting on Monday April 22, crews will begin the process of placing these beams which will require intermittent lane reductions and closures on US Highway 95 allowing a safe space for workers and drivers alike.

The crane will be positioned near the inside lane of the shoofly where girders will be delivered, and then utilize the boom to pick the beams from the trucks and swing them into place. During the time that steel girders are being picked and guided through the air, traffic will be temporarily blocked in both directions.

To help prepare local commuters for upcoming traffic impacts, electronic signs near the work zone will be updated to provide specific date and time information for these closures.

The most significant delays are anticipated on April 24, and April 29 while girders are actively being picked and placed.

Drivers should pay attention to local signage and use the Idaho 511 system for updates.

Work is scheduled to only occur during daytime hours and weekend closures are not anticipated at this time. This work is expected to last for approximately two weeks.

Traffic shift in SH-53 work zone in Rathdrum

Aerial view of SH-53 looking north from Mill Street

 

The Idaho Transportation Department is widening State Highway 53 and replacing existing sidewalks in Rathdrum to improve safety and mobility for drivers and pedestrians. Construction resumed in March and is anticipated to be complete by late fall. So far crews have intermittently reduced SH-53 to one lane with flaggers but that will be changing soon.

“In the next week, we plan to stripe the temporary lanes we built on the north side earlier this spring and shift traffic onto them,” Project Manager Steven Bakker said. “This will mean we can keep one lane open in each direction this year. Our goal is to get it done before the rain this weekend, but if it doesn’t happen tomorrow it’ll happen early next week.”

The widening between Rathdrum City Park (Latah Street) and Sylte Ranch Road will add a continuous center-turn lane and a designated right-turn lane to access Bingham Street. Both additions will keep through traffic moving while providing a safe area for turning drivers.

Drivers can expect the following conditions during construction:

  • One lane of traffic in each direction on SH-53 from early April through completion
  • Pedestrian access maintained through the work zone
  • Speed limit reduced to 25 mph
  • Short-term closures of side streets
  • Reduced parking along SH-53
  • Narrowed lanes

Later this year, Mill Street will be closed for up to four weeks as crews widen SH-53 past this intersection. Updates will be provided with more specific details regarding this closure at a later date. Drivers are asked to follow on-street signage for side-street closures, detour routes, and other construction impacts to safely pass through the work zone. Updates are also available on Idaho 511 to help drivers plan their travel.

“Our goal is to minimize impacts to local businesses and drivers,” Bakker said. “We are working to keep traffic flowing, while ultimately constructing a safer corridor for all users.”

The first stages of this project took place in 2023 as crews extended a culvert for Rathdrum Creek and built ditches to enhance drainage west of the city park.

This project is part of a larger effort to enhance safety on the SH-53 corridor between the Washington state line and Rathdrum. To sign up for email updates or for more information on this project or SH-53 corridor-wide plans, visit itdprojects.idaho.gov/pages/sh53corridor or email info@sh53corridor.com.

Public safety partners in North Idaho take a new approach to DUI crash reduction

Presentation for the North Idaho DUI Task Force

 

North Idaho is a special place – pristine lakes, snowcapped mountains, and lush forests make it a destination for thrill seekers and those who love the outdoors. Fine restaurants, spas, and resorts bring in tourists and celebrities from around the world. Rugged refinement makes Idaho’s Panhandle one of the most unique places to live or visit in the state.

The combination of freedom-loving locals and visitors who come to let their hair down has a definite appeal, but it also has a dark side. In 2017, the biggest city in the region, Coeur d’Alene, was given the designation as the “Drunkest City in Idaho.” All too often, bad decisions in the region’s restaurants, bars, and breweries were turning into bad decisions on its roads.

Over the next two years, two very high-profile tragedies struck the panhandle community. The first came in 2017 when a Kootenai County Sheriff’s Deputy’s son was killed on Interstate 90 after being broadsided by a drunk driver. The second occurred in 2019 when the Allen family was returning home on US-95 when they were struck by a drunk driver. 39-year-old Ryan Allen, who lived a majority of his life confined to a wheelchair after having been paralyzed in a previous DUI crash at the age of 11, was killed. These incidents, coupled with the not-so-glamorous claim of being the booziest community in the state, served as a catalyst for change.

Outraged by the proliferation of overconsumption, flippant disregard for safety and heartbreaking, preventable losses, public safety agencies across northern Idaho banded together to take a collaborative approach to moving the needle on statistics when it came to serious injury and fatality impaired driving crashes in Kootenai County.

Agency leaders from the Idaho State Police, the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office, and four city police departments responded with the creation of the North Idaho DUI Task Force in 2019. The team’s inaugural enforcement operation kicked off on St. Patrick’s Day weekend and included a public briefing ceremony, local media coverage, and allowed officers the ability to work outside of their primary jurisdictions over the holiday weekend to target saturated enforcement efforts on the highest risk areas like the bar districts in cities across Kootenai County.

Since then, the DUI Task Force has grown to include 15 city, county, state, and tribal law enforcement agencies and has planned and executed similar enforcement operations surrounding major holidays and local events annually over the past five years. In that time, the team also recognized that in order to instigate a cultural shift toward sober driving, they also had to deploy a strategy for targeted education and engagement with the community.

“We realized this wasn’t a problem we were going to arrest our way out of,” said ISP Sergeant Justin Scotch. With that understanding, coupled with a healthy dose of support from the Office of Highway Safety, and armed with Idaho Transportation Department’s District 1 Public Information Officer as a liaison for community outreach, the team has become a buzzworthy presence on social media and at regional community events to engage with the public on the importance of safe decisions and sober driving.

Outreach efforts have built a following of over 4,500 people across all platforms, and in 2024 these outreach efforts consistently reach nearly a quarter million people from around the region.

Recognizing the success of the team’s innovative approach to targeted outreach, OHS has played a key role in supporting ongoing communication efforts by coordinating resources available through grants and partnership with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) to fund digital billboards, dynamic messaging signs on highways, electronic jukebox advertisements inside bars, and paid ad campaigns for social media. They also provide grant opportunities to law enforcement agencies that help to supplement overtime costs for additional officers during mobilizations throughout the year targeted not only at impaired driving, but also to enhance enforcement of behaviors like aggressive driving, distracted driving and seat belt use.

When it comes to the metric for measuring the success of this team, it’s difficult to pinpoint based on the theoretical value of the work that they do. No one will ever know who is living among us today because someone made the right choice to not drive impaired. However, when looking at statistics this data would suggest that the ongoing efforts and coordinated outreach by the DUI Task Force has inevitably made a positive impact on the local community and continues to drive behavioral changes.

Since the task force’s inception, District 1 has experienced an overall downward trend in the number of impairment crash deaths, while also experiencing a decrease in the number of DUI arrests being made collectively by police agencies.

Between 2022 and 2023, North Idaho (District 1) experienced an overall 8% increase in the total number of fatality crashes, regardless of the cause. However, during that same timeframe, North Idaho saw a 15% reduction in impairment-related crashes, a 33% reduction in the number of impairment-related fatality crashes, and a 38% reduction in deaths due to impairment related crashes.

While the total number of crashes, fatal crashes, and deaths due to impairment related factors was also on the decline across the state from 2022 to 2023, North Idaho experienced a reduction in those numbers at over twice the rate (based on preliminary data from the Office of Highway Safety).

The growing presence of this team, coupled with its apparent success, has caught the eye of other regional public safety entities, not only within Idaho, but in other states. In February, members of ITD and ISP were invited by the Oregon Transportation Department to join forces and provide training in eastern Oregon for regional police, safety and community partners aimed at aiding them in replicating a model of the DUI Task Force of their own.

In its early days, the Task Force was primarily enforcement-based and arrest-focused, but has since recognized the greater value in proactive education to help shape and shift social norms surrounding impaired driving.

“It’s not going to happen overnight, but being relentless in the use of our collective voice to shift social norms is something that’s entirely possible,” said PIO Heather McDaniel. “If you were to tell someone from 30 years ago that one day the thought of smoking in an airport or a restaurant would be completely taboo, they’d laugh in your face,” she said. “But look at us now! That’s the shift in mindset we are trying to create toward impaired driving.”

The saying goes that it takes a village, and over the years this team has learned time and again that holds true! When it comes to saving lives it’s not just law enforcement who is responsible for affecting change. From transportation, corrections, and judicial agencies to the healthcare community, education system, private enterprise, and even you and me, we all play a role in shaping the safety of our future.

By committing to the principles of partnership and taking a collaborative approach to combating the impaired driving epidemic, we are all one step closer to getting there.

Construction underway on I-90 in the Silver Valley

Interstate 90 at the Big Creek interchange, looking east.

 

Construction is underway on Interstate 90 for the second year between Osburn and Wallace to resurface the freeway with asphalt to replace existing concrete. Crews have closed the inside lanes for both eastbound and westbound traffic so they can work in the median.

Lane closures will be in place through the end of next week as crews prepare to shift all traffic to run on the eastbound lanes on April 1. One lane will remain open in each direction. Throughout the construction season travelers should also expect intermittent on- and off-ramp closures at Silverton and on the west side of Wallace. Advance notification of these closures will be given through signs posted near the work zone.

Later this summer, crews will transition to repave from Big Creek to Osburn and a short section of the interstate east of Wallace.

Work last year focused on the eastbound lanes, and construction this year will focus on the westbound lanes. This project is anticipated to be completed by fall 2024.

Additional work zones in the Silver Valley this season will include resurfacing the I-90 bridge over Pine Creek near Pinehurst, and adding the final layer to the driving surface on the eastbound bridges at Division Street and Elizabeth Park Road.

Both projects are slated to be completed in approximately one month from the time they start, which will likely be sometime in April, as weather allows.

Speed limits for all three construction zones will be reduced to 55 miles per hour for the safety of drivers and workers.

Drivers are encouraged to check 511.idaho.gov for impacts to traffic.