Connect to Disconnect during Distracted Driving Awareness Month

The Idaho Transportation Department’s Office of Highway Safety (OHS) is joining other state highway safety offices and law enforcement agencies across the country to keep our communities safe with engaged driving. This is part of a nationwide effort called Connect to Disconnect.

Thursday, April 8 officers across the country will commit a four-hour shift to targeting distracted driving. In addition, April 19 – 30, more than 60 law enforcement agencies throughout Idaho will work with OHS to dedicate patrols to enforcing Idaho’s new hands-free law.

“April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and we urge Idahoans to join us by agreeing to disconnect from your phone, put it away while you are behind the wheel, and drive engaged,” said OHS Manager John Tomlinson.

According to OHS data, between 2015 and 2019 there were more than 25,000 distracted driving crashes in Idaho killing 237 people. Nationally, distracted driving was a factor in nine percent of all traffic fatalities in 2019 – in Idaho, it was 16 percent.

To help improve safety on our roads, the Idaho legislature passed the hands-free law last year, banning the use of handheld electronic devices while driving – even while temporarily stopped at a red light or stop sign. Officers spent the second half of 2020 educating drivers about the new law and in January they began issuing citations.

“Inattentive driving is illegal and dangerous,” Tomlinson said. “If you need to use your phone’s GPS, enter the address in before you start driving. Check out Bluetooth options for your car so you can talk hands-free, and if you have to read or send a text, pull over and park the car. Choose to leave the distractions behind, stay focused on the road, and drive engaged so you can help save lives.”

For more information visit shift-idaho.org.

Check out the new Idaho 511

New & Improved 511 Road Report

Idaho 511 is a valuable resource for travelers all year long, and now our newest version of the website has officially launched! Take some time to get familiar with the layout and check out the features.

Head to 511.idaho.gov to try out the latest Idaho 511. Your favorite features from our “Full Featured” website are all still there, including the cameras, road reports, traffic speeds, and more. However, now you will find them listed in the layers menu on the right side of your screen. Check the boxes next to your preferred map icons to turn them on, and uncheck the boxes to turn map icons off.

New map layers include Waze Reports, which are citizen road reports from Waze App users, as well as a variety of weather related options. Putting a checkmark in the Weather Radar box for example, will show you where precipitation is falling across the state.

On the left side of your screen (or below on a phone or tablet) severe weather cameras and critical events, road closures, or blockages are displayed as they are happening. These give you an instant look at current situations statewide that may have direct impact on your travel.

With a Your 511 personalized account, you can also choose to save your favorite cameras now, in addition to your favorite routes and places. And when zoomed out on the map, multiple cameras or events in one specific area will group together to display in a “cluster.” This grey or green circle shows the number of cameras or events. Simply click on the circle and the map will automatically zoom in to that area.

“We are excited to update our technology and still give travelers the user friendly Idaho 511 they are used to,” said ITD Travel Services Coordinator Tony Ernest. “Since late 2019, we’ve asked 511 users to test the new site and provide feedback. This input has helped our development team immensely in making sure drivers have easy access to the resources they need.”

Commercial truck drivers will no longer need a separate version of Idaho 511. The improved Idaho 511 features a Commercial Vehicle tab that selects appropriate trucking related map layers like Restrictions, Truck Ramp locations, and Weigh Stations.

Our “Streamlined” low bandwidth version of Idaho 511 will stick around for a little while longer, but get ready for that page to retire in late spring. Start using the new Idaho 511 now so you’re prepared!

Click here to visit the new Idaho 511.

Star Card – Idaho’s REAL ID deadline approaching

Star Card

Seven months ahead of the federally mandated deadline, the Idaho Division of Motor Vehicles continues to raise awareness of the importance of obtaining a Star Card – Idaho’s REAL ID. Beginning October 1, 2021, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will require a Star Card, U.S. passport, military ID, or other REAL ID compliant identification, to board a commercial flight and enter a federal facility.

Currently 465,563 of 1.25 million licensed drivers in Idaho have a Star Card. Two years ago in February 2019, just 70,000 Idahoans had obtained their Star Card.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of planning ahead and updating your driver’s license to a Star Card today,” said DMV Administrator Alberto Gonzalez. “We are pleased to see the number of people getting the Star Card increasing, but now is not the time to slow down. Our goal is 100% awareness, so no one is unexpectedly forced to miss a vacation or unplanned, last minute trip this fall.”

Last spring, the original October 2020 federal deadline was extended one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal remains the same—ensuring all Idahoans are aware that while getting a Star Card is not mandatory, without it, you will have to provide a passport or other form of REAL ID to fly in the United States.

“Our TSA officers are reminding people of the new requirements as they are traveling,” said TSA Idaho Federal Security Director Andy Coose. “Signs are up at airport security warning of the October deadline, and when a TSA officer meets a traveler without a star on their ID, they make sure to tell the passenger to get a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or other identification so they don’t have trouble getting onto a plane after October 1.”

The Star Card has been available in Idaho since 2018. During this time, the Idaho DMV has informed Idahoans of the upcoming federal REAL ID requirement through courtesy renewal notice reminders, various advertising campaigns, sports partnerships, and a public service announcement featuring Governor Brad Little, among other educational videos and presentations.

The transaction requires an in-person visit to a county driver’s license office and additional documents. The Idaho DMV strongly encourages Idahoans use the “Add the Star” tool at itd.idaho.gov/starcard to learn what specific documents are needed, as they can vary depending on each person’s situation. More information, frequently asked questions, and driver’s license office locations can also be found online.

The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 as a result of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” The Act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards, and prohibits federal agencies from accepting licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards, for official purposes.

ITD and law enforcement agencies partner to prevent aggressive driving

The Idaho Transportation Department’s Office of Highway Safety (OHS) and more than 50 law enforcement agencies across the state are teaming up to keep Idaho roads safe. February 1-15, officers will be on the roads looking for aggressive drivers.

Aggressive driving is a contributing factor in half of all crashes in Idaho. According to preliminary data, aggressive driving was a factor in 78 fatal crashes in the state during 2020.

“Aggressive driving crashes don’t happen by accident,” said OHS Manager John Tomlinson. “Someone made that choice. We all have the power to help prevent crashes by deciding to slow down and have patience behind the wheel.”

Aggressive driving happens when a driver operates a vehicle in a way that endangers other people or property on the roads. It’s a series of behaviors that includes speeding, following another driver too closely, weaving in and out of traffic, running red lights, and ignoring other traffic signs.

As winter weather impacts the area, officers will also be watching for those driving too fast for the conditions. When roads are slick, leave more space between you and the vehicle ahead to give yourself plenty of stopping room. Take extra caution while passing.

“Each driver has the responsibility to stay aware and engaged any time they get behind the wheel. Together we can save lives, if we make the choice to drive well,” Tomlinson said.

For more information on aggressive driving, visit shift-idaho.org/aggressive-driving.

Idaho DMV encourages customers to “skip the line, go online,” for many DMV transactions

The Idaho Division of Motor Vehicles continues to encourage customers to go online, to take care of many DMV services—that don’t require a trip to an actual office. The service is designed to reduce wait times and in-person gatherings due, in part, to COVID-19 social distancing protocols in county DMV offices.

“With the extension to some expiring vehicle registrations and driver’s licenses ending January 31, now more than ever, skip the line and go online to complete your transaction,” said DMV Administrator Alberto Gonzalez.

Some online services that can be completed safely, 24 hours a day at dmv.idaho.gov include:
• Renewing vehicle registration/license plates
• Checking and adding insurance policy information
• Ordering personalized plates
• Renewing a driver’s license or ID
• Purchasing a replacement license

There are some exceptions, including those for drivers who want to get a Star Card—Idaho’s Real ID. A full list of services that can be completed online is available at dmv.idaho.gov.

County DMV office hours vary statewide and are determined by county sheriffs and assessors. To contact your local office, business hours and phone numbers can be found at dmv.idaho.gov.

Make Idaho hands-free in 2021

cell phone is hands free mode while driving

This week marks the end of what has been a memorable year for all Idahoans. While 2020 has taught us many new terms like “mask up” and “social distancing” there is one phrase we’d like you to keep in mind for 2021 “hands-free Idaho.”    

That’s because beginning Jan. 1, police across Idaho will begin issuing citations for drivers using a handheld device. The law took effect in July of this year after passing through the Idaho legislature in the spring 

This change will affect drivers across Idaho. Here are three things you need to know about the changes: 

Police have been enforcing the law for nearly six months now 

Yes, police will begin to issue citations on Jan1, but they have been enforcing the new law since July. Police have been able to enforce the law since the beginning by stopping distracted drivers. However, until now, violators who have been stopped were let off with a warning. Beginning Jan. 1, violators can be issued a fine starting at $75 and going as high as $300 for multiple offenses during a three year period. 

This law replaces any local hands-free ordinances 

Over the last several years, a patchwork of cities and counties have passed hands-free driving ordinances at the local level. This caused some confusion for drivers as they went from one jurisdiction to the next. Idaho’s hands-free law preempts all local ordinances meaning no matter where you drive in Idaho, the expectation is for you to be hands-free. 

The law even applies at stop signs and traffic signals 

This new law requires drivers to put away electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle on a public roadway. This includes while temporarily stopped at a traffic signal or a stop sign.  

Hands-free driving is not risk-free driving. Drivers will still have to contend with other forms of distractions, but putting the phone away will help motorists be better prepared for whatever lies ahead on the road. 

Operation Safe Holiday: don’t drive impaired  

holiday truck

The holidays are here and while celebrations may look different this year, keeping our communities safe remains a top priority. That is why law enforcement agencies are working together to keep impaired drivers off Idaho roads. 

The ITD Office of Highway Safety (OHS) is partnering with 53 law enforcement agencies statewide to increase impaired-driving enforcement and education from Dec. 11 to Jan. 3, 2021, surrounding the holiday season. The statewide campaign is part of the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over mobilization. 

“Increased messaging at both the state and national level on the dangers of impaired driving, combined with increased enforcement, is part of a joint effort to prevent DUI related crashes,” said OHS Grants Officer Lisa Losness. 

In 2019 there were 238 impaired driving crashes that resulted in fatalities and suspected serious injuries, an increase of 27% from 2018. Last year 6% of all crashes involved impaired driving but resulted in 44% of all crash-related fatalities.   

“The consequences of driving impaired tend to be severe,” said OHS Manager John Tomlinson. “It is a serious crime that puts Idahoans at risk every single day, and it is absolutely preventable.”  

The consequences of a single DUI conviction for a first-time offender in Idaho can include costly fines, court costs, legal fees, jail time, and license suspension. 

“We ask all Idahoans to please drive safely this holiday season,” reiterated Tomlinson. “We want everyone to make it home safely, so please designate a sober driver.” 

What can you do?  

  • Plan your safe ride home before you leave 
  • If someone you know has been drinking, do not let that person get behind the wheel  
  • If you drink, do not drive. Call a taxi, a ride-share service, or a sober friend 
  • Always buckle up – it’s your best defense against impaired drivers 

If you see an impaired driver on the road, call *477(*ISP) or call 911. Your actions could help save someone’s life. 

Funding for extra traffic patrols is provided by a grant from OHS through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 

Idaho Ready: Pack your winter car emergency kit

Winter weather has arrived in Idaho and it’s time to be Idaho Ready on the road. One way you can do that? Keep an emergency kit in your car this winter.

You want to be prepared for anything that comes your way, so here are a few things you should always have with you when traveling.

  • Flashlight — make sure the batteries work
  • Jumper cables — in case your car won’t start, or maybe you need to help someone else
  • Kitty litter can give you some traction if your tires are spinning on ice
  • Chains
  • Small shovel to dig out around your tires or tailpipe
  • Flares and a first aid kit
  • Food and water — pack high protein snacks that will fill you and your family up for a while
  • Anything to keep you warm — a blanket or a small sleeping bag, winter coat, gloves, hat, and waterproof boots
  • Ice scraper

If you run off the road, break down, or simply get stuck during a storm, these items will help keep you warm and safe until help arrives. Remember, always let someone know about your travel plans, especially if you’ll be driving through areas with no cell service. Check the latest road conditions at 511.idaho.gov before you leave.

Idaho Ready: Winter driving insight from ITD’s snow plow operators

In Idaho you have to be prepared for all sorts of winter weather, and that means being Idaho Ready to drive safely. The Idaho Transportation Department wants drivers to have the knowledge and resources to do that, before they hit the road. Read the messages below to gain some winter driving insight from ITD’s own snow plow operators.

It’s time to be Idaho Ready for winter driving

As winter weather arrives in Idaho, the Idaho Transportation Department has launched its annual winter safety campaign, “Idaho Ready.”

The campaign aims to help drivers prepare for challenging conditions on the state’s highways, offering tips and resources to stay safe before drivers hit the road. Short videos, blog posts, and photos will be posted weekly to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and online at itd.idaho.gov/travel.

So, are you Idaho Ready for winter driving? Here are a few tips to help you stay safe on the road.

First, check road conditions before you leave! Visit 511.idaho.gov or download the Idaho 511 app to look at weather reports and cameras across the state.

Be prepared. Keep an emergency kit with food, water, and a blanket in your car.

If roads are wet or icy, slow down and give yourself plenty of stopping room.

Pay attention to the outside temperature. When it’s near freezing, ice can form quickly, and when gaining elevation, wet roads can change to ice in just a few miles. Even when the temperature is above freezing, shaded roadways can be slick. Take it easy on overpasses and bridges too. These are the first to freeze when temperatures drop.

Snow tires and chains can help keep you moving, but be sure to practice installing your chains so you know how to use them.

When roads are slick, turn your cruise control off. If you start to slide, regain control by taking your foot off the gas and slowly turning your wheel in the direction of the skid. Try not to overcorrect, and do not slam on the brakes.

If you encounter a snow plow, slow down and make room. The safest place is behind the plow. Never pass on the right.

Please wear your seatbelt, stay engaged, and drive for the conditions. Be sure to follow along online with ITD this winter so you are always Idaho Ready.