Fatalities Decrease During 100 Deadliest Days

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.

ITD reminds drivers to be mindful in work zones

BOISE – Every spring, with road-construction season fast approaching, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) reminds motorists to drive carefully through work zones — for their own safety and the safety of construction workers. This year, ITD will hold events around the state during National Work Zone Awareness Week, April 8-12.

Across the U.S., there were 799 workers and motorists killed in work zone crashes during 2017 — 82% were drivers and their passengers, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In Idaho, there were 15 work zone fatalities from 2013-2017, with 1,960 crashes in work zones during that same time period. Drivers are asked to put away distractions and pay extra attention to their surroundings.

“Work zones can be the most hazardous areas on our state highway system,” said ITD Safety Manager Randall Danner. “We urge drivers to use extreme caution when passing through these areas so they can arrive at their destination safely and construction workers can return home to their loved ones.” Safer driving means safer work zones for all.

ITD continually takes steps to improve employee safety. Last fall, the department shifted to high-visibility yellow vests to stand out from the orange barrels and equipment on the side of the road.

ITD also recommends a common-sense approach to driving in work zones:

– Slow down and drive at the posted speed limit or at speeds appropriate for conditions.
– Adhere to traffic signs and follow the directions of flaggers and pilot cars, when present. Prepare for heavy equipment operating in the area.
– Watch for altered traffic patterns or reduced lane widths. Devote your full attention to driving and avoid distractions such as cell-phone use.
– Check before leaving home to determine whether you might encounter highway construction. Call 5-1-1, check 511.idaho.gov or download the 511 app.
– Expect delays and exercise patience.
– Always wear a seat belt.

“Staying safe is an intentional act,” Danner added. “Following these simple precautions will help ensure the safety of drivers, passengers and construction workers.”

“As soon as we put our feet on the road, we are in our office,” ITD Emergency Management Planner Neal Murphy said. “The traveling public should give all workers a break by slowing down and/or moving over.”

“Whether it is a short-duration event or a long-term construction zone, we need to stay safe,” he added.

Here are a few work zone safety videos ITD will be using throughout the state to reinforce the safety message:

Highway Worker (60 sec.)
Family Vacation (60 sec.)
Business Commuter (60 sec.)
Combined Video (60 sec.)


Work Zone Safety Awareness Week is April 8-12

District and HQ collaborate to expedite I-84 bridge repair

Earlier last week, crews in District 4 worked with the Headquarters Bridge section to repair damaged bridge joints on Interstate 84 near Glenns Ferry. It was most likely damaged due to the lower position of that joint compared to the rest of bridge deck and the resulting impact and vibration of passing vehicles. You can hear it on this video.

During a routine inspection, HQ Bridge Inspector Toby Griffin found that a portion of the bridge joint was missing, and another section was broken and loose.

“I was in the area doing a routine inspection of railroad structures below when I heard loud clanking sounds coming from the bridge deck above,” said Griffin. “This was not normal, so I investigated further and discovered the broken joint.”

Toby texted a photo of the damage to his supervisor, Dan Gorley, who quickly reached out to D4 Maintenance Coordinator Shawn Webb.

After discussing the situation, it was determined that a lane closure would ensure the safety of motorists driving westbound on the interstate. Despite it being after normal working hours, crews were onsite and implementing traffic control within the hour, while district and headquarter personnel worked into the evening to develop an emergency repair plan.

The following morning, crews were dispatched to the bridge deck to begin work. Repairs included removal of broken bolts, rethreading of damaged base plates, and welding and re-installment of the broken finger joint section.

“This was a great example of ITD personnel working together in an efficient and collaborative effort to ensure successful execution of one of the department’s key mission points – safety,” said Webb. “Four separate crews came together quickly to work as one to find a viable solution that allowed us to reopen the roadway within 24 hours of the initial discovery.”

The Bliss Foreman area crew, the D4 Bridge crew, the D4 Welder/Machinist, and personnel from HQ’s Bridge Inspection crew all participated in repair efforts of the broken bridge joint.

Planning is underway for development of a strategy to address the joints located on the westbound and eastbound bridges at this location. Webb stated that “the goal is to have a more permanent solution regarding this issue in the near future.”

ITD to conduct road safety audit near Aht’wy Plaza in Lewiston

The Idaho Transportation Department is forming a team to conduct a road safety audit near Aht’wy Plaza.

Road safety audits can help identify creative solutions to safety concerns by asking a diverse group of professionals to examine a particular stretch of road. This safety audit will focus on the section of US-12 near the entrances to the Clearwater River Casino and Lodge.

The team will meet in January to evaluate road and environmental conditions as well as driver behavior. They will use that data to provide recommendations for safety enhancements.

“The goal of the team is to come up with solutions that can be implemented immediately while we continue to work with the tribe to develop a long-term fix,” ITD Traffic Engineer Jared Hopkins said. “This process will be a continuation of our partnership with the Nez Perce Tribe and Idaho State Police to improve safety at this location.”

This year ITD and the tribe worked together on multiple safety improvements near the casino. These projects include the installation of a concrete island at the west entrance to prevent exiting drivers from turning left, and last week new signs were installed to alert exiting drivers of oncoming traffic.

The department will continue to work with the tribe to evaluate and implement solutions developed from the road safety audit while the tribe continues design work for a full interchange at the east entrance.

The interchange design is scheduled for completion next winter.

Plan ahead and slow down if you’re hitting the road this Thanksgiving

With the Thanksgiving holiday and the potential for winter weather moving through Idaho later this week, the Idaho Transportation Department wants to remind citizens to slow down and pay attention before heading out.

ITD encourages everyone to check 511.idaho.gov before their journey. Whether by desktop or the free app, this tool offers updated road conditions 24 hours a day.

Additionally, ITD offers many more resources on staying safe during your holiday trip, or anytime you hit the road. For a full list of what items motorists should have in their vehicles, as well as details on how ITD crews keep highways clear of ice and snow, visit our website at https://itd.idaho.gov/road-mtce/

From everyone at ITD, have a safe and memorable Thanksgiving.



ITD offers holiday safe-driving tips

BOISE—Thanksgiving is a time for food, family, friends, and for many of us, travel. It’s also one of the deadliest times of year on our roadways because of drunk and impaired drivers.

That’s why this Thanksgiving weekend, the Idaho Transportation Department’s (ITD) Office of Highway Safety is working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to remind everyone: If You Feel Different, You Drive Different. Drive Sober During Thanksgiving.

“We know that for many folks, holiday celebrations involve some adult beverages,” said Highway Safety Manager John Tomlinson. “It’s okay for adults to choose to have a drink with their Thanksgiving dinner. What’s not okay is getting behind the wheel after drinking.”

Drunk-driving-related crashes spike during the Thanksgiving holiday season. According to NHTSA, from 2013 to 2017, more than 800 people died in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period (6 p.m. Wednesday to 5:59 a.m. Monday), making it the deadliest holiday on our roadways.

In fact, during 2017, more than one out of every three traffic fatalities during the Thanksgiving Holiday period involved an alcohol-impaired driver.

Excessive drinking is prevalent over Thanksgiving due in part to cultural phenomenons like “Blackout Wednesday,” that highlights and even encourages the heavy consumption of alcohol throughout the holiday weekend.

“It’s a combination of a couple different things,” said Tomlinson. “We see a lot of young adults coming home for the holiday who choose to catch up with friends at a bar. There are also people who plan to cook all day Thursday who choose to go out for dinner and drinks on Wednesday.”

Tomlinson offered the following tips to stay safe on the road:

  • Plan a way to safely get home before the festivities begin.
  • If you are impaired, take a taxi, use a ride share, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation.
  • Download NHTSA’s SaferRide mobile app, which helps you identify a sober ride home and your location for pick up.
  • Passengers should never ride with an impaired driver. If you think a driver may be impaired, do not get in the car.
  • If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make safe travel arrangements to where they are going.
  • If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact local law enforcement.





Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week, Nov. 11-17, recognizes critical safety role

BOISE – First responders, who play a critical safety role every day in managing traffic incidents in Idaho, are being recognized throughout the state Nov. 11-17 during Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week, as officially proclaimed by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter.

These responders help fight rising costs by helping to clear roadways faster and protect drivers.

“These men and women are truly our unsung heroes on the highway,” said Gov. Otter. “They keep commerce in our state moving and ensure we get to work and back home on time. They work all hours of the day and night, and even on holidays, to keep our families and loved ones safe.

“This week, and every week, I encourage motorists to help keep them safe, by slowing down and moving over when you see them doing their jobs.

Roadway incidents can occur at any time and often require police, fire, emergency medical services, tow companies, and transportation workers. In an emergency, those first responders are critical to the protection of life and reduction of secondary crashes.

They also play a critical economic role.

While the cost of traffic incidents has increased by 85% in the last four years according to the American Automobile Association (AAA), responders help to reduce those staggering costs — $6 million average societal cost for a fatal crash, and $126,000 on average for an injury crash.

Those costs include lost earnings, medical bills, emergency services, property damage, and travel delays, among others.

Traffic incident responders in Idaho have contributed substantially to the prompt treatment of patients, clearance of roadways, and increased mobility of travelers. Rubbernecking or blocked lanes from crashes account for up to a quarter of all congestion.

Travelers can in turn protect responders by driving engaged and moving over when incident responders are present. Tragically, traffic incidents are the leading cause of death for EMS responders and law enforcement officers.

“They ensure our safety; we can do our part to ensure theirs,” said ITD Emergency Program Manager Neal Murphy.

Extra officers at Post Falls railroad crossings in October remind drivers to be safe

Recent collaboration between local law enforcement agencies and Idaho Operation Lifesaver (IOL) gave officers multiple opportunities to remind drivers to be safe at railroad crossings in Post Falls.

Known as Officer on a Train, the operation provides officers a unique opportunity to work as a team with their counterparts. IOL allows an officer to join train engineers in the engine car for one day to observe driver behavior at crossings so that he or she may radio other officers staged nearby to address unsafe or illegal actions.

As part of the last operation, officers from Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office, Post Falls Police Department and Idaho State Police were able to make contact with 52 drivers. Twelve warnings and 31 citations were given, ranging from speeding to failing to yield.

Six officers in total spent 42 hours at the major crossings in Post Falls, including the Union Pacific crossing at Spokane Street that received warning lights and gates earlier this year as part of an ITD project.

IOL Director Travis Campbell said the effect of those improvements was extremely noticeable.

“Before lunch we would have as many as 75 violations at these crossings in Post Falls,” Campbell said. “That day we didn’t get nearly as many, and I believe those improvements are responsible in part for that decrease.”

Improvements at Spokane Street, as well as more at Grange Avenue in Post Falls, were funded by the federal Rail-Highway Crossing Program.

The program benefits Idaho by providing safety enhancement projects and supporting educational and law enforcement activities. For the last seven years, ITD has administered an average of $2.2 million every year from this program.

Child Passenger Safety Week reminds us to keep young ones safe

Keeping children safe on the road means making sure they are buckled up in the right seat at the right age. That’s the message for next week’s National Child Passenger Safety Week (Sept. 23-29).

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is partnering with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to remind parents to properly secure their children in the right proper restraint any time they get in a car.

“Car seats, booster seats, and seat belts are often used incorrectly,” said Sherry Jenkins, with ITD’s Office of Highway Safety. “No parent ever wants to get it wrong when it comes to his or her child’s safety. “

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading killer of children ages 1 to 13. She added that using age- and size-appropriate child restraints are the best way to reduce these deaths.

“In 2016, 3 of 4 child passengers under 7 years old killed in Idaho car crashes weren’t in car seats, booster seats, or wearing seat belts,” she said. “Those kids would have had a better chance of surviving had they been buckled up.”

“When children under 7 years old grow out of car seats, their greatest risk is not being placed in booster seats,” Jenkins added.  “Booster seats can save lives and are as important as any of the other restraints.”

From 2012 to 2016, 22 children under age 7 were killed in Idaho passenger vehicle crashes. Of those, 13 were unrestrained.

Child Passenger Safety Week is dedicated to teaching parents and caregivers about the importance of correctly installing and using car seats, booster seats, and seat belts. Parents also will be reminded of the importance of registering car seats with the manufacturer so they can be notified in the event of a recall.

NHTSA recommends keeping children rear-facing as long as possible up to the top height or weight allowed by their particular seats. Once a child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, he or she is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness. After outgrowing the car seats, children should be placed in booster seats until they are big enough to fit seat belts properly without help from a booster seat.

NHTSA and ITD recommend keeping children in the back seat until at least age 13.  It’s the safest place for kids to ride.

To help parents and caregivers in Idaho select the right car seats for their children, certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians will hold free car seat-check events around the state.

“These are events where parents can come out and know for sure that their kids are as safe as possible when riding in a car,” Jenkins said. “If you have questions at all about your car seats please attend one of these events.”

National Child Passenger Safety Week Events:
Friday, Sept. 28, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., at Nell J Redfield Memorial Hospital, Malad, (208) 766-5368
Saturday, Sept. 29, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., at St. Luke’s Children, Nampa, (208) 381-3033
Saturday, Sept. 29, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m., at Meridian Fire Dept, Station One, Meridian,
(208) 888-1234
Saturday, Sept. 29, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., at Walmart Supercenter, 2470 Pullman Road, Moscow,
(503) 523-6902

That’s why the car seat-check events are scheduled during National Child Passenger Safety Week and the month of September. Parents can come out and know for sure that their kids are as safe as possible when riding in a car.”

Idaho sees increase in deadly crashes this summer

BOISE – Labor Day weekend has come and gone, marking the unofficial end of summer and the end of the 100 Deadliest Days of summer driving.

Preliminary data from the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) shows at least 104 people were killed in traffic crashes between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend this year—an increase from 91 deaths in 2017 and the highest total in the last five years.

“This is a trend we all need to work together to change,” said ITD Highway Safety Manager John Tomlinson.

An estimated 94% of all crashes are caused by human error. The Office of Highway Safety partnered with law enforcement agencies across the state on high-visibility enforcement efforts to improve those behaviors. Tomlinson says making our roads safer is something everyone needs to take part in.

“If we look out for each other, we can make a difference,” he said. “Be engaged drivers, buckle up, and drive sober.”