As winter approaches with its inevitable challenges, it’s paramount that drivers prepare themselves to navigate tricky road conditions and minimize unnecessary risks during inclement weather. In a united effort, nearly 50 law enforcement and public safety agencies across Idaho are launching a Winter Driving safety campaign to educate the public about winter driving and snowplow safety. Additionally, statewide emphasis patrols will look for seat belt and impaired driving violations.
Idaho State Police Director Kedrick Wills emphasizes the significance of a collaborative effort, “Every action behind the wheel carries the weight of responsibility that we all share. As law enforcement professionals, we urge every driver to navigate winter roads carefully, respect the conditions, and never drive impaired. Winter driving demands heightened vigilance, so every journey ends with a safe return home.”
The Office of Highway Safety (OHS) pledged increased funding to support local law enforcement in enforcing seat belt violations. Disturbing collision data between 2015 and 2019 revealed that over half of the vehicle occupants killed in Idaho were not restrained, and 1,207 unrestrained individuals suffered critical injuries. While seat belt usage has improved, more than one in ten Idahoans neglect to buckle up. In 2019, 72% of those killed in single-vehicle fatal crashes were not wearing seat belts, underscoring the importance of this life-saving habit.
Josephine Middleton, Highway Safety Manager at ITD explained, “We want drivers to make plans for a sober ride home before they start drinking and remember that wearing a seatbelt is the best defense in a crash. Police are there to protect us from dangerous drivers, but our roads are made even safer when people make good choices before getting behind the wheel.”
In addition to seat belt enforcement, extra patrols will focus on combating impaired driving. Despite being entirely preventable, over 11,500 people lost their lives in drunk-driving incidents across the United States in 2020, equating to one death every 45 minutes. In Idaho, 92 people were killed in impaired collisions. It’s essential to recognize that impairment extends to any substance that hampers the ability to drive safely – various substances slow coordination, judgment, and reaction times. While officers enforce the law, it’s everyone’s job to prevent impaired driving.
Here are some critical steps to consider:
- Plan ahead – Don’t drive impaired.
- Arrange for a safe and sober ride home in advance.
- Seek an alternative mode of transportation if you consume any impairing substances.
- If someone is impaired, do not allow them to take the wheel.
- Always wear a seat belt, as it is your primary defense against impaired drivers.
As winter weather is unpredictable and treacherous, drivers should prepare for adverse conditions. Statewide, more than 16,000 accidents occurred during inclement weather between October 1, 2021, and April 30, 2022, with many attributed to unsafe driving in snow, ice, and wet conditions.
When traveling, let others know your plans – especially if driving through areas without cell service – and check in on arrival. Make safe winter driving a habit:
Adjust your driving to handle changing conditions:
- Reduce your speed and drive at a safe pace.
- Avoid driving into a storm; find a safe place off the road and wait.
- Stay in your vehicle until visibility improves, even if an accident occurs.
- Increase your following distance.
- Exercise caution around stopped or slow-moving vehicles.
- Only pass or change lanes when necessary.
Prepare your vehicle:
- Ensure you have a full tank of gas and windshield washer fluid.
- Equip your vehicle with all-season or studded snow tires.
- Carry chains, a tow rope, cat litter, or cardboard for emergency traction.
- Have a blanket, warm clothing, shovel, jumper cables, and a windshield scraper on hand.
- Prepare a first aid kit with a knife, flashlight with extra batteries, non-perishable food, bottled water, and cell phone charger.
- Stay focused on the road and remain vigilant for potential road hazards like animals and trees.
- Take necessary breaks to combat fatigue.
- Be mindful of hidden dangers like icy overpasses and bridges, open ground blizzards, hills, stoplights, signs, and ruts that may collect water.
Every year, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) deploys over 550 snowplow operators to clear over 3.4 million miles throughout Idaho. Ensure their safety:
Give snowplows ample space to work:
- The best roadway is a safe distance behind a working plow.
- Never pass on the right.
Know before you go:
- Check the weather forecast before embarking on your journey.
- Stay informed about Idaho Department of Transportation (IDT) winter road conditions at 511.idaho.gov and monitor National Weather Service updates at www.weather.gov.