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

Help prevent human-caused wildfires along roadways

With heat warnings in place throughout Idaho, widespread drought, and fire danger increasing, we can all do our part to help prevent human-caused wildfires. It only takes one spark from your vehicle to start a fire. Let’s work together to take the necessary precautions when traveling along Idaho highways this summer.

The next time you are going to hit the road, keep the following fire safety tips in mind:

  • Double check your trailer chains! Be sure they are not hanging low and dragging from your vehicle. The metal can throw sparks easily.
  • Take caution driving through dry grass or brush, and find a safer place to park! Hot exhaust pipes and heat from your vehicle can quickly catch the tall, dry grass on fire.
  • Watch your tire pressure. Driving on an exposed wheel rim can cause sparks.
  • Keep brake pads in shape. If they wear too thin, the metal on metal can make sparks.
  • Stay up to date on your vehicle maintenance. Leaking fluids and overheating engines can be dangerous fire hazards.
  • Idaho is too great to litter. Never throw cigarettes out the window.

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The Idaho Transportation Department takes precautions of its own to help prevent wildfires from starting near highways. For more than 10 years, ITD and the Bureau of Land Management have partnered each spring to conduct controlled burns along highways, targeting tumbleweed early before the dry fire season sets in. When the weather heats up, it doesn’t take much for this high risk fuel to take off. Mowing and controlled burns can significantly reduce fire threat by keeping fuels to a minimum.

ITD blocks the road and manages traffic to protect BLM firefighters during the burn. Water crews protect infrastructure and keep the fire under control. Watch the video to see it all in action!

 

Check with the Idaho Department of Lands, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management for the latest on fire danger in your area. Before you take your next road trip, be prepared and know what current fire restrictions are in place where you are headed. Learn more fire safety tips and find contact information at idahofireinfo.com. Current highway closures and blockages due to wildfire can also be found on 511.idaho.gov.

Prepare for summer travel with the NEW Idaho 511

New & Improved 511 Road Report

As you make your summer travel plans be sure to check out the Idaho Transportation Department’s NEW Idaho 511! The streamlined low bandwidth Idaho 511 website, lb.511.idaho.gov, has now officially retired and the transition to the newest Idaho 511 traveler information website is complete.

Visit 511.idaho.gov to take a tour of the great features and be prepared for your next road trip! Cameras, road reports, traffic speeds, rest area locations, and more are listed in the layers menu on the right side of your screen. Check the boxes next to your preferred map icons to turn them on, and uncheck the boxes to turn off map icons.

On the left side of your screen (or below on a phone or tablet) scenic views, severe weather cameras, and critical events, road closures, or blockages are displayed as they are happening. These give you an instant look at current situations statewide that may have direct impact on your travel.

Saved and bookmarked links should redirect to the newest website, and personalized Your 511 accounts already made the switch in March. Log on now and start saving your favorite cameras and more!

Need some help navigating the new website? Use the onboarding tour to get your bearings and feel free to send us feedback.

ITD Office of Highway Safety partners with law enforcement for safer Fourth of July

This Independence Day, the Idaho Transportation Department’s Office of Highway Safety (OHS) is working with law enforcement to keep roads free of impaired drivers. July 1-15 officers from at least 60 agencies across the state will dedicate patrols to looking for drivers under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

According to OHS data, impaired driving was the cause of 1,501 crashes in 2019, resulting in 99 deaths in Idaho. There were 8,084 DUI arrests. With COVID restrictions lifting and summer activities ramping back up, many Idahoans are eager to get together with family and friends. Please keep safety in mind when gathering to celebrate.

“We want everyone to enjoy the Fourth of July holiday, but it’s important to be responsible on the road,” said OHS Manager John Tomlinson. “As you make your plans for the long weekend, also make a plan for a sober ride home.”

Driving under the influence of any substance is dangerous and illegal. During last summer’s Fourth of July impaired driving campaign, law enforcement officers made 140 DUI arrests. While additional officers will be on the lookout for impaired drivers, we can all do our part to keep Idaho’s roads safe. Celebrate with a plan and remember these safe alternatives:

  • It is never okay to drink and drive. Even if you’ve had only one alcoholic beverage, designate a sober driver or use a ride sharing service to get home safely.
  • Wear a seat belt! It is not only the law, it is the best defense in a vehicle. Buckling up helps prevent injury and death if involved in a crash.
  • If you see a suspected impaired driver use your cell phone in hands-free mode to call *ISP (that’s STAR, I-S-P for Idaho State Police) or 1-800-233-1212.
  • Do you have a friend who is about to drink and drive? Take the keys away and make arrangements to get your friend home safely.

Idaho teens honored as Battle of the Belts winners

In 2019, more than one out of every five crashes in Idaho involved a teen driver. We all know seat belts save lives, and who better for teens to hear that message from than their peers? The Idaho Office of Highway Safety’s annual Battle of the Belts competition just wrapped up with three deserving students honored. It’s a creative contest encouraging high school students to create their own seat belt safety campaigns to share with classmates. See some of this year’s entries in the gallery below.

Thanks to a partnership with State Farm Insurance, winners receive scholarship money to help fund their future education plans. Over the last month OHS Grants Officer Tabitha Smith had the pleasure of touring the state to surprise this year’s top three winners with their giant checks. The students’ reactions of shock and happiness were all caught on camera as their proud parents, school counselors, and OHS helped celebrate.

First place $2,500 winner Paige Tolman just finished her junior year at Vallivue’s Ridgevue High School. She used posters on campus, safety demonstrations at football and basketball games, and other activities asking students to buckle up.

“I worked pretty hard on this so I’m glad I was able to make a difference,” Tolman said. “I was able to learn the importance of seat belts as well as distracted driving, just how important it is and to help others be safe in that way.”

Amelia Jobe from Boise High School was the second place winner. She will use her $2,000 scholarship next year at Boise State studying computer science. Amelia’s Bernie Sanders meme was an instant hit among her classmates.

“I made a social media post about wearing your seatbelt. It was basically that Bernie Sanders meme and said ‘If Bernie can buckle up, so can you.’ It was a post that was really current at the time to encourage teen drivers to wear seat belts. I think it’s a really small ask that can make a difference in people’s lives especially if you have a car accident. It can be the difference between life and death,” Jobe said.

Third place $1,500 winner Mattie Drobish is graduating from Orofino Junior-Senior High School and heads to Lewis-Clark State College next year to study nursing. She created a billboard design with seat belt statistics.

“I know friends and family who have lost their lives by driving without a seatbelt, accidents happen you never know, so it’s crazy important to me and my family. I think it’s a great message to share and it’s great to be a part of this scholarship and actually be able to push that and say ‘Hey wear your seatbelt it’s so important,’” Drobish said.

The Battle of the Belts scholarship contest continues to grow with more participation each year. This year more than 20 high school students entered their work. Congratulations!

Memorial Day weekend begins the “100 Deadliest Days” on Idaho roads

This Memorial Day weekend, the Idaho Transportation Department’s Office of Highway Safety (OHS) reminds drivers to take caution during the “100 Deadliest Days” on Idaho roads.

The unofficial start to summer begins the dangerous 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day when there is an increase in fatal crashes. Last year, 88 people killed in vehicle crashes in Idaho lost their lives during this time frame.

“These warmer months are dangerous because we typically see more drivers on the road, with teens out of school and summer road trips underway,” said OHS Manager John Tomlinson. “We also expect busier roads as COVID restrictions lift and Idahoans feel more confident and eager to get back on the road and travel.”

But it’s not the time to relax behind the wheel. Distracted driving, impaired driving, and aggressive driving also have large impacts on crashes in the summer.

“Whether you are on vacation or just driving your regular commute, it’s always important to make safe decisions while driving. Stay focused and drive engaged, plan for a sober ride, and make sure you buckle up,” Tomlinson said.

Memorial Day weekend also coincides with the national Click it or Ticket seat belt campaign. Law enforcement officers across Idaho are partnering with OHS to participate, issuing citations to those not wearing their seat belt.

“Buckling up is the easiest thing you can do to protect yourself during a crash. It increases your odds of surviving by 50 percent,” Tomlinson said. “We want everyone to get to their destination safely this summer. Take care of yourself and the people you care about by wearing your seat belt and driving well every trip.”

OHS will continue to team up with law enforcement agencies throughout the 100 Deadliest Days to also target impaired drivers and aggressive drivers.

Idaho Transportation Department kicks off Work Zone Awareness Week: April 26-30

road construction workers

BOISE – The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is joining states across the country to promote National Work Zone Awareness Week April 26-30, 2021. The national and state campaigns are designed to raise awareness and educate the public about the safety measures we can all take in work zones, and how we are all responsible for work zone safety

In 2020 Idaho saw 753 crashes in work zones resulting in five deathsstressing the need for this year’s campaign: Drive Safe. Work Safe. Save Lives. 

“Because work zones are congested and busy it’s so important that drivers stay alert and avoid distractions,” said Idaho State Police Trooper Tauna Davis. “In a work zone, the margin for error shrinks. With workers alongside the roadway, consequences of distracted driving can be especially serious, and none of us want that.”

For over 20 years, National Work Zone Awareness Week has been held in April at the traditional start of construction season when highway projects increase. This year, ITD is using its Facebook and Instagram accounts in lieu of public events to remind everyone that construction workers are our neighbors, family members, and friends.  

“Watching for signs and following the direction they give us is what keeps all of us safe in work zones,” said Idaho State Police Corporal Scott Bolen. “The people in the work zones, from flaggers to engineers and equipment operators, are working to make the road safer and they count on all of us to keep them safe by slowing down and following the direction of signs and barriers. If we just stay focused and patient through a work zone, we’ll all be safely on our way.” 

Since 1960, 40 workers have lost their lives on the job in Idaho. Every one of the fallen workers left behind family, friends, and co-workers who miss them to this day. 

Though workers are often victims of work zone crashes, the dangers of reckless and distracted driving more often affect those behind the wheel. According to the Federal Highway Administration, four out of five work zone fatalities were drivers or passengers. Generally, crashes occur when drivers speed through a work zone or do not pay attention to the changing road conditions and drive off the road, or run into other vehicles, highway equipment, or safety barriers. 

How can you help?

Work zone crashes are preventable. The top three causes of crashes are following too closely, speeding, and distracted driving. 

When approaching a work zone please remember to: 

Slow Down – drive the posted speed limits 

Pay Attention – both to workers directing you and surrounding traffic 

Plan Ahead  Check 511.idaho.gov before you go to plan your route. Expect delays, leave early or take an alternate route if possible

“Every highway worker out there is someone’s parent, child, spouse, sibling, or friend,” reiterated ITD’s Chief Operations Officer Dan McElhinney. “Their job is to maintain and enhance our traveling experience while keeping everyone safe while doing so. As drivers we all should be work zone safe because they deserve to return home each day to their loved ones.” 

I-84 Safety Service Patrol continues through the I-84 work zone to Caldwell

New signage on a patrol truck for the I-84 work zone

The Idaho Transportation Department launched the next phase of a safety patrol and courtesy towing service on Interstate 84 this week. The service, which was introduced in 2019 in Nampa, will now include the I-84 construction zones in Caldwell.

The Safety Services Patrol provides complimentary towing for disabled vehicles in the I-84 construction zone. The service has assisted 274 vehicles since it began.

“I-84 is the main commuting and freight route for thousands of drivers in Canyon County,” said Mark Campbell, ITD project manager. “Our goal in funding this service is to keep these drivers moving as safely and efficiently as possible as construction moves west toward Caldwell.”

Patrol vehicles will operate Monday-Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. between 10th Ave/City Center (exit 29) and Karcher/Midland Road (exit 33). Vehicles will be marked with new signage to increase visibility.

Disabled cars, trucks or motorcycles are towed to one of four locations located on the map. Motorists are responsible to arrange transportation for their vehicle within 24 hours.

“We are committed to continuing the close working relationship between this program, our state communications office and Idaho State Police in the next phase of the program,” said Campbell. “These offices, working together, are able to clear crashes quickly and safely.”

Crews recently began constructing temporary travel lanes in the outside shoulders of I-84 between Caldwell and Nampa. For more information about I-84 construction in Canyon County, listen to the Drive Idaho podcast or visit itdprojects.org/84corridor.

“Trucker Matt” helps keep I-90 clean as spring reveals trash covered by winter snows

A long-haul driver who goes by the name “Trucker Matt” has taken it upon himself to clean a stretch of Interstate 90 when his travels take him daily on the heavily traveled north Idaho freeway linking Idaho to Montana and Washington State.

Matthew Culver hauls cedar bark from Naples, Idaho to Superior, Montana. He has been driving truck since retiring from the Marine Corps in 1999. He has owned his own truck, and his own company, since 2007.

Culver has driven the route daily, year-round, for about 4.5 years, and officially signed on with ITD’s Adopt-A-Highway litter pickup program about two years ago. Since then he has picked up about 90 bags of litter from the stretch of freeway.

“I not only clean up Fourth of July Summit, but all over on the route in any wide spot where a truck can safely park,” Culver said. “Fourth of July Pass is my primary objective since it seems to get the most trash, but I also clean up the Idaho Port of Entry roadside temporary inspection location in East Hope at Denton Slough and occasionally Lookout Pass Summit.” He said he and his wife will often bring back a bag of trash from wherever their hiking and fishing adventures take them.

“Wherever Matt goes and whatever he does, he continually looks for ways to make a positive difference,” D1 Volunteer Services Coordinator Robin Karsann said.

Culver’s time in the military made him appreciate cleanliness.

“Having served 25 years in the Marine Corps, I never like seeing an unsightly area with trash strew about everywhere. Besides, Idaho and Montana are just too beautiful to see trash along the road.”

He said it is very rewarding when he sees a clean stretch of highway where litter once was.

“I get dejected when I see trash on the roadside, but when I take action, I feel that I’ve made a positive difference in keeping roads clean and pleasing to the eye.”

Culver said he would love to see more people get involved in keeping our roads clear of debris.

“You can make it a spring and fall event for your business or family. It’s great advertisement for your business and you can honor and memorialize a lost loved one or veteran.”

“I urge others to get involved by contacting your local Idaho DOT office and sign up. The Idaho Transportation Department will provide trash bags and safety vests. Not only have I benefited in getting exercise by picking up trash, and experienced the rewarding feeling of making a difference, I have also collected thousands of dollars in excellent-condition tire chains, bungee cords, hand tools, and more all left abandoned by truckers. It’s a win-win-win situation.”

Culver Enterprises is one of the 242 organizations in District 1 that participate in the Adopt-a-Highway program. Some have made it a long-term commitment.

“What amazes me about being a Volunteer Services Coordinator for District 1 is to see the faithfulness and longevity of participation our volunteers show year after year,” said Karsann. “Several groups have been participants for more than 20 years.”

Here’s the list of Adopt-a-Highway coordinators around the state:

District 1

Robin Karsann

600 W. Prairie Dr.

Coeur d’Alene  83815-8764

Phone: 208 772-1200

Counties: Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai and Shoshone

 

District 2

Shane Niemela

PO Box 837

Lewiston, ID  83501-0837

Phone: 208 799-4239

Counties: Clearwater, Idaho, Latah, Lewis and Nez Perce

 

District 3

Judi Conner

PO Box 7129

Boise, ID  83707-1129

Phone: 208 334-8094

Counties: Ada, Adams, Boise, Canyon, Elmore, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, Valley and Washington

 

District 4

Wendy Robinson

126 S. Date Street

Shoshone, ID  83352

Phone: 208 886-7831

Counties: Blaine, Camas, Cassia, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka and Twin Falls.

 

District 5

Sharon Short

PO Box 4700

Pocatello, ID  83205-4700

Phone: 208 239-3300

Counties: Bannock, Bear Lake, Bingham, Caribou, Franklin, Oneida and Power

 

District 6

Erika Turner

PO Box 97

Rigby, ID 83442-0097

Phone: 208 745-5612

Counties: Bonneville, Butte, Clark, Fremont, Custer, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison and Teton

Connect to Disconnect during Distracted Driving Awareness Month

The Idaho Transportation Department’s Office of Highway Safety (OHS) is joining other state highway safety offices and law enforcement agencies across the country to keep our communities safe with engaged driving. This is part of a nationwide effort called Connect to Disconnect.

Thursday, April 8 officers across the country will commit a four-hour shift to targeting distracted driving. In addition, April 19 – 30, more than 60 law enforcement agencies throughout Idaho will work with OHS to dedicate patrols to enforcing Idaho’s new hands-free law.

“April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and we urge Idahoans to join us by agreeing to disconnect from your phone, put it away while you are behind the wheel, and drive engaged,” said OHS Manager John Tomlinson.

According to OHS data, between 2015 and 2019 there were more than 25,000 distracted driving crashes in Idaho killing 237 people. Nationally, distracted driving was a factor in nine percent of all traffic fatalities in 2019 – in Idaho, it was 16 percent.

To help improve safety on our roads, the Idaho legislature passed the hands-free law last year, banning the use of handheld electronic devices while driving – even while temporarily stopped at a red light or stop sign. Officers spent the second half of 2020 educating drivers about the new law and in January they began issuing citations.

“Inattentive driving is illegal and dangerous,” Tomlinson said. “If you need to use your phone’s GPS, enter the address in before you start driving. Check out Bluetooth options for your car so you can talk hands-free, and if you have to read or send a text, pull over and park the car. Choose to leave the distractions behind, stay focused on the road, and drive engaged so you can help save lives.”

For more information visit shift-idaho.org.