Mr. Snowplow created in response to repeated snowplow strikes

A concerted effort was launched in late December amid a dramatic spike in snowplow strikes around the state.The first vehicle to hit an ITD snowplow came on Dec. 9, and then two more on Dec. 16. When a fourth happened just a few days later along with a couple of incidents where the plow had to run off the road to avoid being hit, the campaign was born. And to personalize it a bit, the caricature “Mr. Snowplow” was created by Justin Smith, the new Public Information Officer (PIO) for districts 5 and 6 (East Idaho).

“We were concerned with what we were seeing on the roads, with four hits in the span of just 10 days, so we began a short-term campaign to raise awareness,” Smith explained. This included multiple social-media posts, press releases, and interviews with local media. A spouse of one of the department’s snowplow drivers wrote the poem “Mr. Snowplow, you are loved” and District 1 & 2 (North & Panhandle Idaho) PIO Megan Jahns posted it just before Christmas. The poem is listed at the bottom of this story. The post went viral, with shares across the country and in Canada. The result of the campaign was a much higher awareness of snowplows and the dangers of passing them. As a result, plow strikes dramatically decreased.

At that point, Smith saw an opportunity.

“I was watching the rapidly growing metrics on the Mr. Snowplow social-media post and noted we were still getting media requests for interviews, handled primarily by District 4 (South-Central Idaho) PIO Jessica Williams. I realized the poem hit an emotional cord with families, bus drivers, truckers, and others. It seemed tome the poem personified the snowplows and really changed how people viewed them – less as an impediment and more as a caring person who worked long hours to keep our roads safe,” Smith said. “I thought that a cartoon version of Mr. Snowplow would help us capitalize on the goodwill of the snowplow campaign. Taking an existing photo and using Photoshop, the snowplow was transformed into a cartoon character and acts as a kind and polite spokesman during our winter safety campaigns.”

“The idea was not to guilt people or try to use scare tactics about danger, but to have a friendly and kind personification. Mr. Snowplow is just a big friendly guy that kindly asks people to drive responsibly,” Smith explained. “Not necessarily a mascot, but more of a spokesman for winter safety. The idea is to make him extremely polite, and gentle so we humanize the plow drivers and help people think of plows as more than just obstacles.”

The entire campaign was innovative for a number of reasons. First, it was a spur-of-the-moment push to address a problem we saw that was a significant safety issue for our drivers and the community. Smith and Jahns worked to immediately get the word out in a way that was more effective than simply saying we had another plow strike. Rather than focus only on traditional media, they used social media as the primary lever to move the public’s perception of snowplows. Jahn’s statewide press release spurred reporters to see the problem as a significant issue, and Smith called local media to let them know we wanted to get the word out about snowplow safety. Newspapers, radio, and television across the state quickly picked up the story and printed or posted stories. There also were numerous comments in broadcast media about snowplow safety when announcers were discussing weather.

The campaign also has spawned Mr. Snowplow coloring pages, and versions of the character that can be modified to fit any specific need, along with a section of white space in the lower left-hand corner where text can be added. Also, Mr. Snowplow was created on a separate layer of Photoshop, so it’s easy to superimpose him on other images.

Here’s the poem mentioned earlier:

Clarissa is the wife of Tim Moon, a five-year veteran with ITD in District 1. She recently authored the poem below as a gift to her husband of 15 years, and the rest of us at ITD sure appreciate her creative messaging. Thank you to everyone who makes our winters safer in Idaho!

Excuse me Mr. Snowplow, please move out of my way.
Don’t you know I’m in a hurry and I’m already running late.
Excuse me Mr. Snowplow, how dare you stop to eat.
My wife is waiting at the restaurant where we plan to meet.
Excuse me Mr. Snowplow, how dare you take a day off.
My street hasn’t been plowed, I’ll call your boss and scoff.
Excuse me Mr. Snowplow, why do you move so slow.
Don’t you know I’m just trying to get to my family back at home.
Excuse me Mr. Snowplow, how dare you leave a berm.
Don’t you know I have to take Grandma to get her perm.

Please just take a moment to thank the folks behind the plow.
They sacrifice time with friends and family to clear all the snow.
Without these men and women, traffic would come to a halt.
Just say a little thank you and don’t gripe about the salt.
From the wife of a plowman, things get lonely at home.
Keep us in mind when you want to whine and moan.
In the winter, we spend a lot of time alone.
Next time you see a plowman, give a smile and wave.
Thank them for all the sacrifices that they’ve made.
Excuse me Mr. Snowplow, from your little wife.
Thank you for being a blessing in my life.
I love you Mr. Plowman! ♥

Public comment sought on plan for Idaho highway rail grade crossings

BOISE – Public input is being sought on the action plan to guide Irail grade crossings on Idaho Highways. Through Jan. 21, members of the public are invited to comment at https://arcg.is/1DqS4b or via the QR code posted below.
QR code to review action plan to guide Irail grade crossings on Idaho Highways
The action plan identifies, analyzes, and develops solutions to issues affecting safety at approximately 1,400 public, highway-rail grade crossings in Idaho.

 

ITD issues reminder on plow safety following six incidents in two weeks

Stock photo of another vehicle hitting a plow

Stock photo shown above. 

With snow in the forecast for several regions in the state, the Idaho Transportation Department would like to remind drivers how to travel with plows on the road.

In just the last two weeks, there have been four incidents of drivers striking plows and two incidents of drivers forcing them off the road. This compares to eight plow strikes recorded last year. Most of the collisions have occurred after other drivers tried passing plows on the right.

Drivers should be aware that most ITD trucks have two plows: one on the front, and one that extends from the right side known as a wing plow. Lights alert drivers to the presence of wing plows, but during storms those lights and the wing plows can be obscured by plumes of snow.

So far this winter, plows have been struck in nearly every region of the state:

  • On Dec. 9, a plow was hit on Interstate 90 near the Rose Lake exit when a driver tried to pass on the right.
  • On Dec. 14, a plow on U.S. Highway 95 near Moscow was forced off the road to avoid hitting a vehicle that had lost control and was in the opposing lane.*
  • On Dec. 16, a plow was hit on U.S. Highway 20 near Ashton and on Interstate 84 near Twin Falls. Both incidents involved drivers trying to pass on the right. That same night a plow on US-95 near Winchester was forced off the road to avoid hitting a vehicle that had lost control and was in the opposing lane.

The latest plow strike occurred this morning on I-90 near Osburn. Another vehicle attempted to pass the plow on the right, collided with the wing and forced the plow off the road. The driver then fled the scene. The Idaho State Police are investigating the incident.

To date no one has been injured. However, plows must be checked for any damage before being put back into service, which stretches resources thin with a direct impact to driving conditions.

“This time of year drivers need to take their time and never pass a plow on the right,” said Jerry Wilson, the operations engineer for North Idaho. “Let’s all get home safely.”

Know before you go and check 511.idaho.gov for road conditions before traveling. For winter driving tips, visit itd.idaho.gov/travel.

*Post updated Dec. 23 to reflect that this near-collision occurred on Dec. 17 on Palouse River Drive near the Moscow shed.

With tragic increase in deaths on Idaho roads, ITD urges sober driving this holiday season

The Idaho Transportation Department’s Office of Highway Safety (OHS) is partnering with nearly 50 law enforcement agencies to keep impaired drivers off the road this holiday season. Dec. 17 through Jan. 1, OHS and officers across the state will participate in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over education and enforcement campaign.

The safety effort comes at the close of a tragic 2021 on Idaho roads. According to OHS preliminary data, 254 people have died in crashes in Idaho so far this year, the most traffic fatalities in a single year since 2006.

“One life lost is too many. As 2021 ends, please celebrate the holidays wisely. Make safe decisions behind the wheel to avoid devastating consequences,” said OHS Manager John Tomlinson. “Always buckle up and if your festivities will include alcohol, please make a plan for a sober ride home.”

In 2020, 43% of all fatalities were the result of an impaired driving crash in Idaho, and only 29% of the vehicle occupants killed in those crashes were wearing a seat belt.

While law enforcement will be on heightened watch for drivers under the influence of drugs and alcohol during the next two weeks, preventing crashes is a shared responsibility in our communities.

“Impaired driving puts Idahoans at risk every day and it’s completely preventable,” said OHS Grants Officer Lisa Losness. “We can all choose to avoid dangerous driving behaviors and help ensure a safer holiday for our friends, family, and neighbors.”

Celebrate with a Plan

Nationally it is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher, except in Utah, where the limit is .05. A single DUI conviction for a first-time offender in Idaho can include costly fines, court costs, legal fees, jail time, and license suspension. Your judgement clouds when under the influence, so it’s important to plan a safe ride home before you leave the house.

  • Designate a sober driver or plan to use a ride service to get home safely.
  • Is it your turn to be the designated driver? Take that role seriously and do not drink any alcohol. Your friends and family are counting on you!
  • If someone you know is about to drink and drive, take the keys away and make arrangements to get them a safe ride.
  • Always buckle up – it’s your best defense against impaired drivers.
  • If you see an impaired driver on the road, call *477(*ISP) in hands-free mode. Your actions could help save someone’s life.

Funding for extra patrols and overtime work focused on impaired driving enforcement is provided by a grant through OHS and NHTSA.

“Pack the Parking Lots” this Thanksgiving weekend and plan a sober ride home

This Thanksgiving weekend, the Idaho Transportation Department’s Office of Highway Safety (OHS) and the North Idaho DUI Task Force ask drivers to “Pack the Parking Lots” and keep impaired drivers off the roads. Law enforcement agencies throughout Kootenai County are preparing for the increased number of impaired drivers the holiday season typically brings to North Idaho roadways. The North Idaho DUI Task Force will kick off its holiday DUI emphasis patrols with a “Pack the Parking Lots” event Nov. 26 – 27.

Police officers & vehiclesDuring the holiday season the parking lots of local bars and restaurants will fill up as more people are out celebrating. Law enforcement officers say unfortunately it isn’t uncommon to see those full parking lots almost empty once bars close. Through “Pack the Parking Lots,” the North Idaho DUI Task Force hopes drivers will leave their cars safely parked for the night and find a sober ride home. The goal is to see the bar parking lots as full after closing time as they were before closing.

According to OHS data, in 2020 there were 140 impaired driving related crashes in Kootenai County, killing 7 people. In an effort to encourage those in North Idaho to choose not to drive after drinking, the North Idaho DUI Task Force and OHS will provide Lyft vouchers to bars throughout Kootenai County, offering $5 off a Lyft ride. The vouchers will be valid Nov. 26 – 27 with the code SAFERIDE021.

The North Idaho DUI Task Force is made up of officers from the Coeur d’Alene Police Department, Idaho State Police, Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office, Post Falls Police Department, Rathdrum Police Department, Spirit Lake Police Department, and Hayden Lake Police Department. Officers from each agency will continue to work with OHS throughout the holiday season to keep impaired drivers off our roadways.

It’s time to be “Idaho Ready” for winter driving

Ahead of the busy holiday travel season, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) encourages drivers to be “Idaho Ready” for winter driving. ITD’s annual winter safety campaign aims to help drivers prepare for challenging conditions on the state’s highways, before hitting the road.

“Idaho Ready” tips and resources will be shared weekly through ITD’s social media accounts and website itd.idaho.gov/travel. Short videos, blog posts, infographics, and photos will teach drivers how to safely get around this winter. Planned topics include navigating the new Idaho 511, general winter driving tips for Idaho newcomers, how to keep vehicles ready for colder temperatures, and snowplow ride along videos to hear safety advice straight from ITD operators.

Each winter ITD’s 550 hardworking snowplow operators travel a combined 3.4 million miles clearing roads across the state. “Idaho Ready” also focuses on keeping these important employees safe. When encountering a snowplow on the road, drivers are reminded, the safest place is behind the plow—never pass a snowplow on the right.

Other quick winter travel tips:

  • Check the road conditions before traveling. Visit 511.idaho.gov or download the Idaho 511 app for an easy look at weather reports, cameras, and more. Idaho 511 updates are now tweeted too! Follow @Idaho511 on Twitter.
  • Keep a winter emergency kit in your car with food/water, small shovel, warm blanket, etc.
  • When roads are wet or icy, slow down and give yourself more stopping distance. Turn off cruise control and remember, bridges and overpasses are the first to freeze when temperatures drop.
  • If you do slide, stay calm, brake very gently, and turn your wheel in the direction of the skid. Try not to overcorrect.
  • Keep your windshield completely clear of snow and ice. Fill up on windshield washer fluid, make sure your tires are in good shape, and battery is charged. Learn how to use tire chains and carry them with you.
  • Give our snowplow drivers room to work. Never pass a snowplow on the right! The safest place is behind the plow where the road is clear.
  • Let others know your travel plans, especially if you will be driving through areas with no cell service. Check in when you make it.
  • Beware of drowsy driving! Stop and rest when needed, and plan breaks on long road trips. Rest areas are mapped on Idaho 511.
  • If your holiday celebrations include alcohol, plan ahead for a sober ride home. Look out for your friends and family and help them get home safely too.
  • Buckle up, stay engaged behind the wheel, and drive for the conditions this winter.

Follow along with ITD and the Idaho Ready campaign this winter:

Child Passenger Safety Week Sept. 19-25 reminds drivers to keep kids safe, offers free car seat checks

Young boy sitting buckled up in booster seat in the back of a car.

This week the Idaho Transportation Department’s Office of Highway Safety reminds families that keeping children safe on the road means putting them in the right car seat. Sept. 19-25 is Child Passenger Safety Week and free car seat checks are planned at locations throughout Idaho.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car crashes are the leading cause of death for children. When installed correctly, car seats can reduce the risk of fatal injury in a crash by 71% for infants and by 54% for toddlers.

“Every child is unique, and so is each car seat. Read the manufacturer’s instructions and requirements to know if your car seat is the right size for your child’s age, height, and weight,” said Child Passenger Safety Program Manager Tabitha Smith. “Too often we see car seats used incorrectly, but no parent wants to get it wrong when it comes to their kid’s safety.”

To help parents and caregivers select the correct car seats for their children, certified child passenger safety technicians will hold free car seat checks at the following events, no appointment needed:

  • Orofino: Wednesday, Sept. 22, 3-6 p.m. at Orofino City Park
  • Grangeville: Thursday, Sept. 23, 1-6 p.m. at 600 E. Main Street
  • Cottonwood: Friday, Sept. 24,  2-6 p.m. at St. Mary’s Hospital
  • Malad City: Friday, Sept. 24, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. at Nell Redfield Memorial/Oneida County Hospital
  • Pocatello: Friday, Sept. 24, 2-6 p.m. at Pocatello Police Department
  • Moscow: Saturday, Sept. 25, 12-3 p.m. at 1420 South Blaine Street
  • Idaho Falls: Saturday, Sept. 25, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. at Grease Monkey
  • Meridian: Saturday, Sept. 25, 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. at Meridian Fire Station 5

“These events make it easy to drive up and take just a few minutes out of your day to double check your car seat. This way you are prepared and protecting your child in case of a crash,” Smith said.

If you can’t make it to one of these events, Idaho has more than 90 car seat check stations across the state, with over 200 certified child passenger safety technicians willing to provide education and car seat inspections by appointment all year. To find the free car seat check site near you, visit shift-idaho.org/childsafety.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends keeping children rear-facing as long as possible, up to the top height or weight limit allowed by the particular seat. Once a child outgrows the rear-facing seat, he or she is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether. When children exceed the weight or height limits for their forward-facing car seat, it’s time for a booster seat. The safest place for all kids under 13 is the back seat of the car.

“Every time your family gets on the road, make sure everyone is properly buckled, including the smallest passengers,” Smith added. “The right car seat or booster seat is key to keeping kids as safe as possible on the road.”

For more information and car seat guidance visit shift-idaho.org/childsafety or NHTSA.gov/TheRightSeat.

100 Deadliest Days come to a close on Idaho roads

The 100 Deadliest Days remain deadly in 2021. According to preliminary data from the Idaho Transportation Department’s Office of Highway Safety, 92 people died in traffic crashes on Idaho roads this summer, as the 100 Deadliest Days come to a close.

The busy summer days between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends are known as the 100 Deadliest when there is typically an increase in fatal crashes. It’s a tragic trend both in Idaho and across the nation. Last year, 88 people killed in crashes in Idaho lost their lives during this time frame–more than 40% of the entire year’s fatalities. In 2019, 92 people died in the summer.

“Summer driving continues to be a dangerous concern in Idaho,” said Office of Highway Safety Manager John Tomlinson.

This summer the Office of Highway Safety (OHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration funded four high visibility enforcement campaigns, providing law enforcement agencies grant funding for overtime patrols. Officers throughout the state spent time looking for aggressive and impaired drivers, and those not wearing their seat belts. OHS also ran several media campaigns in conjunction with these efforts, encouraging drivers to make smart choices behind the wheel.

“While the 100 Deadliest Days may be over, road safety is important to focus on all year,” Tomlinson said. “The work continues to make Idaho a safer place to live, and it’s up to all of us to buckle up, drive engaged and do what we can to help prevent fatal crashes.”

100 Deadliest Days Quick Facts:
•    The majority of the 92 people killed in crashes were in passenger vehicles.
– 73 Automobile
– 15 Motorcycle
– 3 Other (ATV/UTV)
– 1 Pedestrian
•    In the 73 passenger vehicle fatalities, 31 people were not wearing seat belts.
•    Failure to maintain a lane was a contributing factor in 17 fatalities.
•    6 fatalities involved inattentive driving.

**Please note, data is preliminary and subject to change.**

Statewide focus on impaired driving underway through Labor Day

As Idahoans make their end of summer plans, the Idaho Transportation Department’s Office of Highway Safety (OHS) and law enforcement agencies are teaming up to keep roads free of impaired drivers through Labor Day. Beginning Friday, August 20, officers from more than 60 agencies across the state will increase patrols looking for drivers under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

The high visibility enforcement campaign coincides with the close of the summer driving season known as the 100 Deadliest Days on Idaho roads. The term refers to the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends when there is an increase in deadly crashes.

According to Idaho crash data, impaired driving was the cause of 1,513 crashes in the state last year, killing 92 people and injuring hundreds more. Twenty of those deaths occurred during the summer. Forty-three percent of all fatalities on Idaho roads in 2020 were the result of an impaired driving crash.

“These crashes and deaths are preventable,” said OHS Manager John Tomlinson. “While officers are out looking for drunk drivers, we can all do our part to help keep communities whole. Plan ahead for a sober ride home, and if you see someone who has had too much to drink, take the keys away and help them get home safely.”

Impaired Driving Quick Facts:

  • Last year impaired driving was a factor in 6.7% of all crashes in Idaho but contributed to 43% of all traffic fatalities.
  • In 2020, a person was killed in an impaired driving crash every four days in Idaho.
  • 71% of motor vehicle occupants killed in DUI crashes were not wearing seat belts.
  • 6,939 people were arrested for DUI in 2020.
  • Males comprised 72% of the drivers involved in impaired driving crashes.

See a suspected impaired driver on the road? Use your phone in hands-free mode to call the Idaho State Police REDDI (Report Every Drunk Driver Immediately) number at *ISP or 1-800-233-1212.

 

Statewide efforts underway to reduce aggressive driving during 100 Deadliest Days

During the 100 Deadliest Days on Idaho roads, the Idaho Transportation Department’s Office of Highway Safety (OHS) is working with law enforcement agencies statewide to reduce aggressive driving.

The summer days between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends are known as the 100 Deadliest, when there is an increase in fatal crashes. According to OHS preliminary data, 41 people have died in crashes in Idaho since Memorial Day weekend this year.

Friday, July 23 through Sunday, August 8, close to 60 law enforcement agencies throughout Idaho will participate in OHS’ high visibility enforcement campaign, dedicating patrols to enforcing Idaho’s speed limits and stopping aggressive drivers. Aggressive driving is a contributing factor in half of all crashes in Idaho. It happens when a driver makes the choice to speed, follow another car too closely, run a red light or ignore a stop sign, weave in and out of traffic, or not use turn signals.

“We are reminding drivers to stay engaged behind the wheel and watch for those speed limit signs,” said OHS Manager John Tomlinson. “We all have the responsibility to pay attention to how we are driving, have patience and protect other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.”

Speeding greatly reduces a driver’s ability to slow down when necessary or to steer safely around an unexpected curve, another vehicle, or hazard in the road. It also increases danger for pedestrians and people who ride bicycles.

“As you enjoy summer in Idaho, please keep in mind that traveling in a vehicle is one of the most risky situations we experience on a daily basis. Any time you speed, you are putting yourself and other people in danger,” Tomlinson added. “Let’s drive well so everyone can make it to their destinations safely.”

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