ITD’s Tabitha Smith energizes teens and parents about safe driving

Two teen girls holding microphones.
The cover of the Backseat Drivers Manual.
Backseat Drivers Manual

Teen drivers are 2.6 times more likely to be involved in a crash than any other age group. For the Idaho Office of Highway Safety (OHS) reaching teens is more important than ever. They are a hard group to connect with. Tabitha Smith (pictured below on podcast), OHS’s occupant protection and teen driver safety program manager has been making those connections and getting them excited about traffic safety.

Tabitha worked with, Sam Walker and Ella Cornett (pictured above, right to left), two students at One Stone who created the “Backseat Driver’s Manual.” It’s an activity book designed to teach kids about safe driving and spark conversations among families. The students recognized Tabitha for her mentorship and guidance at One Stone’s annual fundraising dinner.

During the dinner presentation, Cornett said, “Tabitha empowered us to step outside of our comfort zones. Her steadfast support and positive energy gave us the confidence we needed to positively impact our state.”

A woman at a banquet table.
Tabitha at the One Stone annual dinner.

Kuna School District is also getting energized about safe driving. Kuna Superintendent Wendy Johnson invited Tabitha to the “Together We Can” podcast to talk about teen driver safety. They talked about unsafe driving behaviors common to teens, advice for parents, Parent-Student Driving Contracts, Alive at 25, and more. You can listen to the podcast on YouTube.

Tabitha’s dedication to promoting safe driving among young drivers is truly admirable. Through her partnerships with Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), Alliance Highway Safety, and the Idaho High School Activities Association (IHSAA), as well as her leadership in managing the Alive at 25 defensive driving program, she’s making a real impact.

If you know an Idaho teenager who could benefit from getting involved or learning more about these programs, don’t hesitate to reach out to Tabitha. You can contact her via email at tabitha.smith@itd.idaho.gov. It’s heartening to see individuals like Tabitha leading the charge for safer roads and empowered young drivers.

 

 

Two women with podcast microphones.
Kuna School District Podcast

Aviation Safety Stand Down March 9 will focus on pilot safety

The 2024 Aviation Safety Stand Down for the thousands of pilots and aviation enthusiasts, is just around the corner. This FREE event is slated for Saturday, March 9 at the Nampa Civic Center, from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

This year, The Idaho Division of Aeronautics (Aero) will focus on backcountry safety, including backcountry medical care. Since most accidents occur in the flight pattern, we have sessions on ways to reduce loss-of-control accidents. This will include a stall/spin refresher and a discussion of float-plane operations. See the schedule for more details.

This event is sponsored by Aero, which exists to “encourage, foster, and assist in the development of aeronautics in the state.” This includes managing 32 state-owned airports, helping Idaho airports with state and federal grants for maintenance and construction, assisting communities with zoning decisions near airports, promoting aviation safety, inspiring kids to enter careers in aviation, and coordinating aviation search and rescue.

If you are involved in aviation safety and wish to have tablespace at the event, please contact Aero, or simply want more info regarding the event, please email idaho.aeronautics@itd.idaho.gov or call 208-334-8775 for additional information.

Register with your FAA WINGS email address for WINGS Credit.

See the registration link for the full agenda.

 

Football fans (and Swifties) should plan a sober ride home after the Big Game

A football on grass.

Got plans for the Big Game this weekend? The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) wants to remind football (and Taylor Swift) fans that plans aren’t complete until they include a sober ride home.
Idaho Office of Highway Safety (OHS) data shows that during the Big Game weekend in 2022, there were 20 impaired driving crashes in Idaho and one person was killed.
“Some fans are spending a lot of energy figuring out whether Taylor Swift will make it to the big game in time,” said Highway Safety Manager Josephine Middleton. “Don’t let your night turn into one of her songs like “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve,” spend some time planning how you’re getting home after the game.”
If you’re hosting a party, make sure everyone has a plan to get home safely. That might include a designated driver, calling a rideshare or cab, or offering them a safe place to stay until they are sober.

Idaho students can display skills in Aviation Art Contest

Idaho students age 5-18 are encouraged to demonstrate their artistic skills under the theme “Careers in Aerospace” in the annual Aviation Art Contest through the Idaho Division of Aeronautics. The contest is open now through April 5, with winners announced May 3.

Age-group winners (categories listed below) received the following awards/recognition:

  • First place winners:
    • Invitation to ride in an airplane
    • Copy of their artwork signed by our Governor
    • Congratulatory letter
  • Second place winners:
    • Receive $25 in art supplies
    • Congratulatory letter

The rules are as follows:

  • Submit original artwork
  • Paper size must be 11” x 17” (Landscape orientation)
  • Must be two-dimensional watercolor, acrylic or oil, colored pencil, felt-tip marker, ballpoint
  • pen, pen and ink, and/or crayon
  • Must have a completed Certificate of Authenticity attached securely to the back of the piece of artwork (see link below for certificate)
  • No pencil, charcoal, collage, digital, or clip art

Artwork Categories by Age:
Age Group I: 5–6 years old
Age Group II: 7–9 years old
Age Group III: 10–12 years old
Age Group IV: 13–15 years old
Age Group V: 16–18 years old

Winners will also be featured in the 2025 Aviation Art Calendar

See the Entry Form under the “Safety & Education” tab on the Aeronautics webpage at the ITD website or this link.

Nine ITD snowplows hit so far this winter season

Damaged rear of snowplow.

Winter weather has brought snowy driving conditions to much of Idaho. Unfortunately, the rise in snowy road conditions has also led to a sharp rise in snowplow strikes. Nine Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) plows have been hit so far this winter season. Five strikes happened over the last seven days.

Two of the most recent strikes happened this Wednesday in the Magic Valley, one on I-84 north of Twin Falls, and one on I-84 west of Wendell. Both involved a semi truck rear-ending a plow. The vehicles will be out of service for up to two weeks while they undergo repairs.

“It’s a major impact on maintenance sheds when equipment is taken out of service. We are limited on snowplows,” Jerome Foreman Brian Davidson said. “It makes it more difficult to keep roads clear.”

Another recent strike happened on Tuesday in Nampa. The plow was heading eastbound on I-84 near Karcher Road. A pickup pulling a trailer merged onto the interstate and lost control. The trailer swung out and hit the ITD vehicle’s wing plow. There was no lasting damage to the snowplow.

ITD wants to remind drivers how to be safe around snowplows.

  1. Do not pass a plow on the right. Plows have a 10-foot extendable wing plow on the right side that may be difficult to see in snowy conditions.
  2. Provide ample space for plows to work and steer clear of their blind spots. This also means increasing your following distance behind the plow.
  3. Practice patience and stay behind the plow for the safest road conditions.
  4. Plows often operate in pairs to clear multiple lanes; never position yourself between tandem plows.
  5. In case of a crash or if you need to stop on the side of the road, stay inside your vehicle for both your safety and that of our plow operators.

Last winter, there were 17 plow strikes, a number ITD does not want to repeat. Please be careful driving and mindful of our plows. Check 511.idaho.gov or the Idaho 511 App for road conditions before traveling. For more winter driving tips, visit itd.idaho.gov/travel.

*For real-time updates and photos of plow strikes, visit ITD’s Facebook or X pages. 

SH-21 between Grandjean and Banner Summit set to close at 4 p.m. due to avalanche risk

The Idaho Transportation Department will close State Highway 21 from Grandjean to Banner Summit this afternoon due to high avalanche risk.

A weather system bringing rain and snow is likely to trigger avalanches in this section of highway. The anticipated closure will begin at 4 p.m. today. However, actual weather impacts may require an earlier closure.

Motorists needing to use the roadway are advised to make the trip immediately or plan to use alternate routes. The alternate route between the Treasure Valley and Stanley area is to travel east on Interstate 84, exit in Mountain Home at Exit 95 to U.S. Highway 20 and then head north on State Highway 75.

The ITD avalanche crew monitors the snowpack along this section of highway in order to forecast the risk of avalanches large enough to reach the roadway. This practice allows the department to keep the highway open during the winter months with a reasonable confidence of safety for the traveling public.

There are around 70 avalanche paths in this 11-mile stretch of SH-21. Avalanches can be triggered without warning. For this reason, there is no parking or stopping within this section of road during the winter.

The highway will reopen when the snowpack has stabilized and the risk of active avalanches is reduced. Updates on closures and openings will be posted on 511.idaho.gov. 

Idaho traffic deaths reached 20 year high in 2023

At least 277* people were killed in traffic crashes in Idaho last year, making it the deadliest year on Idaho roads in 20 years. You have to look all the way back to 2003, when 293 were killed, to find a deadlier year.

Preliminary data from the Idaho Office of Highway Safety (OHS) shows a significant rise in fatalities across all crash categories in 2023. One-hundred ninety-five* people in vehicles were killed, of those fatalities, 105* were not wearing a seat belt. Forty people riding motorcycles, 31* people on foot, and 7* people on bicycles were killed in 2023. Four* deaths involved people riding ATVs, UTVs, or other off-road vehicles on public roads.

“Idahoans want to do right by their communities by driving safe, so this increase in fatalities should be alarming to all of us. The loss of Each person last year is a tragedy with broad impact,” said Idaho Transportation Department Director Scott Stokes. “So, in Idaho let us recommit ourselves to the principles of engaged driving to help save lives in the future. That means putting the distractions away, buckling up, and driving cautiously and respectfully.”

Grant funding is available through OHS for programs that aim to change unsafe behaviors like distracted and impaired driving to help reduce death and serious injury on Idaho roads. The application period for FY2025 grants closes on January 31, 2024. To apply, complete the grant application. OHS also offers mini-grants throughout the year for traffic safety community education and outreach, contact them at 208-334-8112 or email OHSGrants@itd.idaho.gov.  Resources for community outreach efforts can be found at Shift-Idaho.org.

Top 10 contributing circumstances to traffic fatalities in 2023 (in no particular order):

  • Fail to maintain lane
  • Speeding
  • Alcohol/Drug impairment
  • Fail to yield
  • Inattention
  • Drove left of centerline
  • Fail to obey a stop sign or signal
  • Overcorrecting
  • Distracted
  • Improper overtaking

Traffic fatalities by transportation district and county in 2023:

District 1

  • Boundary – 1
  • Bonner – 5
  • Kootenai – 21
  • Benewah – 4
  • Shoshone – 1

District 2

  • Latah – 2
  • Nez Perce – 9
  • Idaho – 9
  • Clearwater – 4
  • Lewis – 0

District 3

  • Ada – 31
  • Canyon – 32
  • Boise – 8
  • Elmore – 11
  • Owyhee – 2
  • Payette – 8
  • Gem – 5
  • Washington – 2
  • Valley – 3
  • Adams – 1

District 4

  • Jerome – 18
  • Twin Falls – 13
  • Cassia -8
  • Minidoka – 4
  • Blaine -4
  • Gooding – 3
  • Lincoln -2
  • Camas – 0

District 5

  • Bingham – 9
  • Bannock – 8
  • Bear Lake – 3
  • Franklin – 1
  • Oneida – 0
  • Power -1
  • Caribou -2

District 6

  • Bonneville – 17
  • Butte – 2
  • Fremont – 4
  • Jefferson – 8
  • Lemhi – 3
  • Madison – 2
  • Teton – 5
  • Custer- 1
  • Clark – 0
Year 2023 2022
Total Fatalities 277* 215
Motorcyclists 40* 29
Pedestrians 31* 16
Bicyclists 7* 4

 

*All 2023 data is preliminary and subject to change

Safe celebrations: Plan sober rides on New Year’s Eve and all of 2024

Idaho street in Boise with Christmas lights.

As Idahoans gear up for New Year’s Eve celebrations, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is reminding everyone to start 2024 right with a sober ride home. 2023 is on track to be one of the deadliest years on Idaho roads in the last 20 years.

So far this year 275* people have been killed on Idaho roads, surpassing last year’s total by 60 deaths. Of the total people killed in traffic crashes in Idaho last year, 51% involved impaired driving.

This weekend, ITD’s Office of Highway Safety (OHS) and over 50 law enforcement agencies across Idaho will collaborate to keep roads safe from impaired drivers.

While law enforcement will be on the lookout for drivers under the influence of drugs and alcohol, everyone can play a part in preventing impaired driving crashes by:

  1. Designating a sober driver or using a ride service.
  2. If you’re the designated driver, stay alcohol-free.
  3. Intervene if someone plans to drink and drive; take away their keys and arrange a safe ride.
  4. Seat belts save lives — A seat belt increases your odds of surviving a crash by 50% and is your best defense against drunk drivers.

“Have an epic last night of 2023, and then get a sober ride home so you can have an amazing 2024 as well,” urged Highway Safety Manager Josephine Middleton.

*Preliminary data subject to change

ITD looks to give ‘green light’ to better visibility on snow plows

Bright green LED light on wing plow

A small number of snowplows in North Idaho are taking part in a preliminary testing program being used to assess the efficacy of increasing visibility on plows and reducing the number of strikes each winter.

These ultra-bright, LED lights are being put to the test not only to measure how effective they are, but also how well they stand up to the abuse of being attached to one of the hardest working members of a snow fighting team – the wing plow.

Science has proven that green and yellow are some of the most highly visible, detectable and recognizable colors on the spectrum to the human eye, both day and night, which is why green and amber have been selected as the colors for testing.

Often, even when it’s not actively snowing, the plows on these trucks kick up tremendous clouds of snow and slush making it extremely difficult for drivers to see the low-profile wing plow while crews work. No matter how often drivers are warned to never pass a plow on the right, inevitably there are those who either miss the memo, or are too impatient to heed the warning and that is typically when those plow strikes occur.

The hope is that these bright lights will produce enough illumination to shine through the sprays of snow, slush and ice and be a visual warning to motorists that there is dangerous equipment on the road ahead.

Compared to the heavy financial hit suffered each time a plow is struck these lights are an incredibly inexpensive and effective way to improve safety, each ringing in at around $300 in total for the parts and labor required to install them.

On the flip side, while the circumstances of each plow strike are unique, it is estimated that it costs the Idaho Transportation Department roughly $10,000 per incident in parts and labor to repair equipment damaged in an incident. In addition to the financial hit, the larger impact is often having a truck out of service for extended periods of time meaning additional strain on mechanics to get them fixed, and on plow crews to work harder with fewer resources to keep the roads safe.

If these lights prove successful over the 2023-2024 winter, ITD will likely do a more comprehensive pilot program next year including more trucks across broader areas throughout the state.

Green lights have been successfully adopted several state transportation departments including Utah and Montana, and in several cities and counties in eastern Washington. They are also currently being considered by Washington, Wyoming, and Oregon state transportation departments. “Having uniformity between neighboring agencies is another big reason we are trying this out,” said Fleet Operations Manager Ryan Crabtree This uniformity enhances safety by ensuring driver experiences and expectations remain the same from place to place as they travel throughout the Pacific Northwest.

A magical Christmas includes a sober ride home

An officer practices a field sobriety test

It’s almost Christmas! This weekend will be filled with festive parties and family get-togethers! As Idahoans celebrate the season, the Idaho Office of Highway Safety (OHS) urges everyone to include a sober ride home in their Christmas plans.

“All anyone wants for Christmas is to have everyone in their family there to enjoy it. Sadly, many families have lost loved ones to drunk driving related crashes. Give yourself or a friend the gift of a sober ride home when drinking, it could save a life and a lot of heartache,” encouraged Highway Safety Manager Josephine Middleton.

According to data from OHS, last year in Idaho there were 1,818 impaired driving crashes, and 110 people were killed.

To raise awareness, OHS recently kicked off an impairment campaign featuring videos of five volunteers at an alcohol impairment workshop called a wet lab. A behind-the-scenes video posted by an attendee at the wet lab recently went viral with millions of views on social media.

Wet labs are a controlled environment designed to show all involved, from volunteer drinkers to police officers, that legal drinking limits aren’t always safe driving limits. Impairment happens faster than drivers might think. Volunteer drinkers learn that even a small amount of alcohol can slow their reaction time and make them unsafe to drive.

Watch the videos.

For more information on impaired driving visit https://shift-idaho.org/wet-lab/ and https://shift-idaho.org/beheretomorrow/.