To pass or not to pass?

It’s a cold, windy, snowy night driving on the interstate. You’re in a hurry to get home from a long day at work, but you can’t see very well in the snowstorm. Cruising along, you drive up on some flashing lights and realize it’s a snowplow ahead.

As you get closer to the plow, you think, “What should I do? Should I pass, or do I stay behind the plow?” When encountering a snowplow, we have a few safety tips to take into consideration.

First things first, please slow down. When you approach a snowplow, the driver may not be able to see you. Snowplows have many blind spots, and when the plow is in use, they have even more limited visibility. Drivers hit many plow trucks each year, which endangers the drivers of both vehicles and other motorists in the area. Leaving more space between the plow and your vehicle gives the plow driver and you more time to react should you hit ice or another problem. Driving too close behind the plow can also expose your vehicle to de-icing materials. When approaching a plow, slow down and be aware of your surroundings.

In heavy snowfall and icy road conditions, the safest place to drive is behind a snowplow at a safe distance. Too often, drivers pass the plow and end up driving at a slower speed than the plow itself, in turn, slowing everyone down.

Passing at elevated speeds on icy road conditions is risky. If you should pass a plow, do not pass on the right. There is a wing plow that is on the right side of the vehicle, extends up to 10′, and is typically masked by a snow plume that it creates when clearing the roadway of snow. Don’t pass on a corner, in an area with blocked views, or on an icy stretch that you are uncomfortable passing on; this makes a safer environment for you and surrounding motorists.

If you see a snowplow driving towards you from the opposite direction, be courteous. Again, please slow down and drive on the right side of your lane to give the snowplow enough room to do its job. Many state highways are narrow, so snowplows take up a little more space on the single lane as they need to plow the center line.

Let’s remember, plow drivers are working to make the road safer for everyone to drive. Using caution when driving around a plow can save someone from having a bad day, or even save a life. Snowplow drivers are our friends and neighbors; they have families too and want to end each shift safely. They drive in the most treacherous storms to keep roads open and as safe as possible for all of us. Please show them respect, give them the space they need to work, be attentive, and, most of all, drive safe. We want you and our plow drivers to get home safely every day!

Be Here Tomorrow: Holiday Impaired Driving campaign kicks off statewide

The holidays are here. That means it’s time for eggnog, ugly sweaters, and our yearly effort to get drunk drivers off the roads. This is an effort is to remind Idahoans to Be Here Tomorrow and to celebrate safely and to have a plan for a sober ride home.

This year, the Office of Highway Safety and law enforcement agencies across the state will get some help from an unexpected place – 210 unexpected places to be exact.

During the holiday season, messages reminding revelers to celebrate safely will appear on interactive jukeboxes in 210 bars around Idaho, many of them in rural areas where impaired driving is more prevalent. As bar-goers celebrate the holidays at participating bars, they will see messages encouraging them to get a sober ride home.

In addition to seeing OHS messages, jukebox users will also be able to earn a free song by participating in a quiz about drunk driving. Most importantly, the screen will provide numbers for local taxi services and wait times for ride share services.

The goal of this new approach is to help people make the right choice before they get behind the wheel – law enforcement officers will be on the lookout for those who make the wrong choice.

Check 511 before you hit the road this weekend

With winter weather bearing down on much of the state, a new and improved version of the 511 Traveler Information System is ready to help with your travel plans.

The improved site, still at 511.idaho.gov, offers an updated look and makes it simpler to find useful information for navigating winter roads statewide. The 511 slogan — “Know B 4 U Go” — is a reminder that it’s best to get road condition information before you get behind the wheel and start your trip. Factoring in conditions along your travel route will help you safely get to your destination and back home again.

511 has several tools to show winter road conditions. Snowplow drivers report into headquarters after they maintain a section of road. That report shows up on a color-coded map of the highway. You can see at a glance where ice, snow or low visibility may be impacting driving conditions. From those color-coded road sections, you can navigate to view more details and access short-term weather forecasts for that section of roadway. If conditions are difficult enough to cause a weather delay for drivers, that will be indicated on the map along with delay details.

Another popular feature on 511 is the roadway cameras. Lousy weather conditions show up as alerts and will flag what weather conditions might make driving hazardous. 511 will also display winter storm warnings. The cameras can be useful for planning highway trips or navigating across cities during busy, snowy rush hours.

511 was used over 5.6M times last year, and usage is expected to increase with the improved website and app. ITD welcomes user feedback, and based on user experience, ITD will continue to modify and improve the site over the next few months.

Are you traveling for the holidays? Before you leave for grandma’s house, check 511.idaho.gov, call by phone at 511 or download the Idaho 511 app. The app is a convenient way to stay connected during your travels and check for delays or road updates along the way. Stay safe and happy holidays!

 

 

Safety Service Patrol on I-84 showcases its value in first week of operations

It’s Day 2 of operations for the Safety Service Patrol in the I-84 Corridor and the service is showing its value as it cleared a three-vehicle crash quickly during Monday’s morning commute.

The crash happened during the peak drive time on eastbound I-84 near the Northside Blvd. Exit. Patrol driver Craig Parker came upon the crash shortly after it occurred and was the first on scene. Parker quickly contacted emergency services to get the full response rolling.

“Two of the three vehicles were able to drive off the highway and get to a safe location out of traffic,” said Parker. “I got the third attached to my tow truck and pulled it to the Jackson’s parking lot. ISP and a second tow truck were already waiting to take care of the rest of the incident.”

Thanks to the presence of the Patrol, traffic flow returned to normal quicker than normal. Parker says from crash to hand-off, the whole thing took less than an hour – the impact to the traveling public was even less than that.

“If this crash was treated normally, traffic would have been backed up for at least an hour and a half,” said ITD Emergency Response Manager Neal Murphy. “The time it would take for someone to contact law enforcement, then a tow company – the tow truck would have been stuck in traffic on the way to the crash – this was a perfect example of why we started the Safety Service Patrol.”

The Safety Service Patrol will operate Monday-Friday during the morning and evening commutes:

– 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. between the Karcher/Midland and Garrity interchanges, and
– 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. between the Ten Mile and Karcher/Midland interchanges.

Disabled cars, trucks or motorcycles will be towed to the Jacksons parking lot near the Franklin Boulevard Interchange (1407 N. Franklin Blvd.). Motorists will be responsible to arrange to retrieve their vehicles within 24 hours.

Although the Safety Service Patrol will be out actively searching for disabled vehicles, drivers can still call 911 or *ISP in an emergency.

Idaho’s “Move Over” law requires drivers to move into the next lane for tow trucks, incident response vehicles and emergency personnel.

ITD introduces new Safety Service Patrol for I-84 construction zone in Nampa

A Tow Truck

The Idaho Transportation Department is launching a safety patrol and courtesy towing service on Friday to assist disabled vehicles and keep traffic moving safely through the Interstate 84 construction zone in Nampa.

The Safety Service Patrol will operate Monday-Friday during the morning and evening commutes:

– 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. between the Karcher/Midland and Garrity interchanges, and
– 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. between the Ten Mile and Karcher/Midland interchanges.

Disabled cars, trucks or motorcycles will be towed to the Jacksons parking lot near the Franklin Boulevard Interchange (1407 N. Franklin Blvd.). Motorists will be responsible to arrange to retrieve their vehicles within 24 hours.

In the event of a crash, emergency services and police must first render medical assistance and gather information for an investigation before the scene can be cleared. Vehicles will be relocated to the Jackson’s lot as soon as that work is complete.

“Our top priority is to keep the I-84 work zone safe for everyone. Even a minor incident, like running out of gas, is likely to cause delay or create an unsafe situation for other people on the road,” said Mark Campbell, ITD’s GARVEE construction project manager. “The Safety Service Patrol will work closely with our state communications office and Idaho State Police to monitor road conditions, report incidents and clear disabled vehicles from the roadway as quickly as possible.”

Although the Safety Service Patrol will be out actively searching for disabled vehicles, drivers can still call 911 or *ISP in an emergency.

Idaho’s “Move Over” law requires drivers to move into the next lane for tow trucks, incident response vehicles and emergency personnel.

For more information about I-84 construction in Canyon County, listen to the Drive Idaho podcast or visit itdprojects.org/84corridor.

Before you go, don’t forget to pack your winter car emergency kit

Vehicles traveling in winter conditions

Of the many things that Idahoans know a lot about, one of them is how to be prepared. Prepared for the big game, prepared for the campout, and prepared for the road. Whether you’ve lived in Idaho your whole life or are a new resident, it’s important to do everything you can to prepare for an Idaho winter. As the cold weather sets in, so do winter road conditions.

So how do you prepare for Idaho winter travel? We recommend starting by calling or visiting 511.idaho.gov to check road conditions and alerting friends and family of your travel plans (especially if you are traveling through areas with poor cellular service). Take time to review a map and make sure you know your path of travel as opposed to relying solely on GPS navigation which can occasionally be incorrect. Once you’ve checked those things off your list, ensure you are prepared for whatever comes your way by packing a winter car emergency kit.

Keeping a winter car emergency kit on hand won’t just benefit you, but it could come in handy for others you come across while traveling. Here are some items we recommend you include when building your winter car emergency kit:

  • Flashlight with extra batteries to use as a light source and signal for help.
  • Jumper cables to jump your own vehicle or assist other motorists.
  • Tire pressure gauge to ensure you are driving with the optimum inflation.
  • Cat litter to use as traction on slick surfaces.
  • Small camping shovel to assist with removing snow around tires and tailpipes.
  • LED flares to alert motorists of a broken down vehicle or roadway obstruction.
  • First Aid Kit for minor injuries and emergencies.
  • High protein food and bottled water to keep you hydrated and give you energy should you be stuck for a period of time. If your food items are in cans, make sure you also have necessary items like a can opener and utensils in your kit as well.
  • Winter coats and gear such as hats, gloves, etc. to help keep your body temperature up.
  • Blanket or a small sleeping bag for warmth in freezing conditions.

Some of the items may seem excessive but if you run off the road, breakdown or simply get stranded during an extreme storm, these items will help keep you warm and safe until roadside or emergency services are able to reach you.

For those that already have a winter car emergency kit in a vehicle, make sure you do an annual check of items to ensure they are in good condition and working order – remember, food expires and batteries don’t hold their charge forever. Also, if you do find yourself stuck in the snow, don’t run your vehicle without first ensuring the tailpipe and up to three feet behind your vehicle is free of snow; this, along with opening your windows, will prevent deadly carbon monoxide from building up inside the automobile.

As a parting note, be sure to replace worn windshield wipers, keep gas in your car and have the proper tires on before driving in winter weather conditions. Keeping all of that in mind, you’ll be well on your way to being prepared for an Idaho winter.

ITD launches annual winter driving safety campaign in advance of Thanksgiving travel

The Idaho Transportation Department is launching the annual winter safety campaign “Idaho Ready” to help drivers prepare for challenging conditions on the state’s highways. This launch comes as winter weather is expected to bear down on much of the state and holiday travel begins.

The campaign offers information via social media and a page on the department’s website to help drivers safely arrive at their destinations.

“Short videos will present information on using Idaho’s 511 Traveler Information system as a resource before heading out on the highway, how to maintain your vehicle during winter months, and driving safely in winter conditions,” said Reed Hollinshead with ITD’s Office of Communication. “Important safety information will be posted regularly to Facebook, Twitter, and the ‘Idaho Ready’ web page. New information this year will address new drivers on Idaho roads — those who recently moved here or have recently been licensed.”

Additional information on winter safety can be found at itd.idaho.gov/road-mtce.

Follow ITD’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/IdahoTransportationDepartment, or the department’s Twitter account at IdahoITD.

Drivers are also encouraged to check the new and improved Idaho 511 Traveler Information website at 511.idaho.gov for the latest road conditions and for updates as those conditions change.

ITD & Governor’s Office collaborate to promote Traffic Incident Safety Week awareness

 

Idaho Gov. Brad Little and ITD collaborated Tuesday, Nov. 12 to bring attention to the importance of traffic incident responders during National Traffic Incident Management Awareness Week.

Gov. Little signed a proclamation Tuesday recognizing the importance of traffic managers and incident responders.

Roadway incidents can occur at any time and may require law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services, tow operators and transportation workers. The ability for them to respond quickly is critical for protecting life and reducing secondary crashes.

“The traveling public can do their part to protect responders by driving in an engaged manner and moving over when incident responders are present,” Gov. Little said.

Traffic incident responders in Idaho contribute substantially to caring for victims in these crashes, and the quick clearance of our roadways increases mobility of the traveling public and has the added benefit of greatly enhancing safety on the highways.

Improved, updated 511 Traveler Information System launched

Note: The image above is what a visitor to the 511 site will see – an invitation to try out the new platform.

BOISE – With winter driving weather bearing down on much of the state, a new and improved version of the 511 Traveler Information System launched today (Thursday, Oct. 31). The improved site, still accessible at 511.idaho.gov, offers an updated look and new features for the 14-year-old service.

“The new website offers a new, more intuitive user interface,” explained 511 Manager Tony Ernest. “We are simplifying and consolidating — making it easier to use and find the information people want.”

“We’re taking the best from multiple pages before and rolling it into one location,” Ernest explained. The improvement also means that all platforms – desktop computer, tablet, cell phone — will be supported by that one single site.

Rather than offering a separate version for commercial vehicle operators, the improved 511 has a special “Truckers” mode more customized to their specific needs.

Ernest also said the improved site welcomes feedback. “The site lets you offer your feedback to us,” Ernest said. “Based on what you tell us, we will continue to modify and improve the site over the next few months.”

The 511 service has proven to be a valuable source of information on road conditions statewide. The 511 slogan — “Know B 4 U Go” — is a reminder that it is best to get road condition information before you get behind the wheel and start your trip, and to factor in conditions along your travel route and at your destination.

The 511 service in Idaho launched in November 2005. Since then, citizens have accessed the 511 service 41 million times, including 5.6 million times last year.

The system accesses 150 traffic cameras statewide.

Idaho’s system came when the Federal Communications Commission designated 511 as the nation’s traveler information phone number in 2000.

Nearly two dozen enhancements have been made since 511 was unveiled. In addition to four state awards, in 2010 the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials recognized the system with a national President’s Transportation Award for Traffic Safety.

511.idaho.gov – Know B4 U Go

Fatalities Decrease During 100 Deadliest Days

Note: According to data in early October, there were 93 fatalities during the 100 Deadliest Days. The below data was accurate as of publication of this post on Sept. 10, 2019.

BOISE — This summer, 91 people died as a result of traffic crashes according to preliminary data from the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD). This is down from the summer of 2018, when 101 people were killed in crashes during the same time period.

The summer months typically bring with them an uptick in deadly crashes both in Idaho and nationally. Because of this trend, the period of time between Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day Weekend is often referred to as the 100 Deadliest Days of Summer Driving.

“Summer driving is a big concern of ours,” said Highway Safety Manager John Tomlinson. “This is why we work so closely with law enforcement agencies and other partners throughout the state to promote safe, engaged driving.”

This summer, the Office of Highway Safety (OHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration funded four high visibility enforcements. During these different enforcement periods, law enforcement agencies were provided grant funding to put extra officers on the roads, looking for seat belt violations and aggressive and impaired drivers.

In addition to these grant-funded mobilizations, several media campaigns ran statewide encouraging everyone on the roads to make safe choices.

“It’s so important to get these messages out to the public,” Tomlinson said. “Our law enforcement partners do wonderful work but they can’t be everywhere. If we are going to prevent these fatal crashes, we need drivers to make smart and safe choices.”

100 Deadliest Days at a Glance:*
• The majority of the 91 people killed in crashes were in passenger vehicles.
– 62 Automobile
– 17 Motorcycle
– 6 Other (ATV/UTV)
– 4 Pedestrian
– 2 Pedacycle
• 75 people died in crashes on rural roads and 16 people were killed on urban roads.
• In the 62 passenger vehicle fatalities, 28 people were not wearing seatbelts.
• Failure to maintain a lane was a contributing factor in 23 fatalities.
• Impairment was a contributing factor in 17 fatalities.
• 13 fatalities involved an aggressive-driving behavior.
• 8 fatalities involved inattentive driving.

*Data is preliminary and may be subject to change.