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.”

ITD Gives Safety a New Look

Safety has a new look at the Idaho Transportation Department. Thursday morning employees across the state traded in their orange vests for high-visibility yellow vests.

The vests come as part of an effort across the department to focus on employee safety.

“I can’t emphasize just how significant this change is as far as prioritizing the safety of our employees,” said ITD Chief Operations Officer Travis McGrath.

Watch this video of the shift to yellow.

The new vests were designed and developed by a team of employee representing different disciplines from across the state.

The most notable change to the vests is the yellow color to help drivers recognize highway workers among the orange traffic control devices. The vests also have a retro-reflective X on the back to signify to motorists the worker’s back is turned. Employee feedback during design also helped with some functional aspects like snap buttons, pockets big enough for a tablet, a rear storage pocket, and a strap for radio microphones.

“I’ve been with ITD for a long time, and this is by far the biggest change I’ve seen in regard to our safety. I’m so glad we’re making this commitment to our employees,” said ITD Chief Deputy Scott Stokes.

Holiday Travelers are Reminded to Drive Well

Independence Day is nearly and for many of us that means fireworks, barbeques and road trips.

As Idahoans prepare for their holiday travels, the Idaho Office of Highway Safety reminds them to be engaged behind the wheel.

“It’s an exciting time of year,” said Highway Safety Manager John Tomlinson. “There is so much going on both inside and outside of the car that it really takes a conscious effort to stay focused.”

The busy travel holiday comes in the midst of the 100 Deadliest Days on Idaho roads. Since the Memorial Day weekend there have been at least 30 people killed in traffic crashes.

This year, is expected to be a busy one for people looking to get away for the Fourth of July both nationally and right here in Idaho. AAA predicts 47 million people will travel for the holiday, including a quarter million Idahoans.

“As with the national totals, we expect about a five percent increase in auto travel and an eight percent increase in air travel,” said Matthew Conde, public affairs director for AAA Idaho. “July 3 is expected to be the busiest day, particularly as vacationers mingle with commuters in the afternoon.”

In addition to additional motorists being on the roads, there will also be an increased presence from law enforcement agencies taking part in a statewide effort to get drunk drivers off the road.

“A lot of holiday cookouts involve alcohol and we just don’t want to see people get behind the wheel after a few drinks,” Tomlinson said.

“We also encourage careful and responsible celebration – alcohol does not mix well with fireworks, boating, or driving,” added Conde.

Memorial Day Weekend Marks Beginning of the 100 Deadliest Days

Memorial Day Weekend is here. The unofficial start to summer brings with it barbeques, camping trips and the beginning of the most dangerous time on Idaho’s roads.

“The weather is nice, kids are out of school and there are just more people out on the roads,” said John Tomlinson from the Idaho Transportation Department’s Office of Highway Safety.

The period of time between the beginning of Memorial Day Weekend and the end of Labor Day Weekend are often referred to as the 100 Deadliest Days of summer.

According to preliminary crash reports, 244 people died in crashes on Idaho roads in 2017 – 90 of those deaths were during this time period.

“Every time we lose someone on our roads, it impacts all of us,” Tomlinson said. “We will be working with our law enforcement partners to reduce crashes but we need help from everyone to make our roads and communities safer.”

To help keep roads safe this summer, ITD is planning multiple mobilizations to crack down on drunk drivers and to encourage people to buckle up. Tomlinson says it shouldn’t be up to the police alone to keep us safe.

“We can all do a little more,” he said. “We can all be more engaged while we’re out on the roads. Let’s put away the distractions and buckle up. If you choose to drink, plan a safe ride home. It’s up to all of us to get where we’re going safely.”

Help reduce roadside hazards and make highways safer

Temporary signs

With snow melting and spring returning, highway crews are exchanging plows for dump trucks and are transitioning into summer maintenance. Every year crews performing routine maintenance are often delayed by signs placed too close to the roadway by the public. Regardless of the message, signs must be removed if they present a safety concern or are placed on state property.

Keeping the roadside free from obstacles preserves drivers’ line of sight and makes them available for emergency situations and staging equipment or personnel when needed.

If you need to place a sign near the road, please do not create a hazard. Refer to this Idaho Statue that guides sign placement and check with the local ITD office to make sure any sign you install does not pose a safety concern and is not on state property. Generally, signs placed beyond utility poles are not on state property.

Let’s do our part to support safety on local highways and let crews focus on keeping the highways in good repair.

Child Pedestrian Safety projects start in spring

BOISE – A dozen sidewalk and pathway projects benefiting child pedestrian safety will be built this year across the state beginning this spring.

There were 71 eligible project applications requesting more than $12M in funds to consider in this year’s funding cycle (there was just $2M in funding available). The maximum award is $250,000. Construction must be completed before the end of the year.

The projects are thanks to collaboration between the Idaho Transportation Department and the Local Highway Technical Assistance Council, after a legislative effort last year. They are funded with general fund surplus money approved by the Idaho Legislature during the 2017 session.

The following 12 projects were approved for funding:

Location        Amount
Ashton            $250,000
Title: Main Street sidewalk improvements
Description: This project will provide new sidewalk and lighting improvements along Main St. (ID-47) to connect with the existing pedestrian system at the high school.

Blackfoot         $171,000
Title: Ridge Crest Elementary Safety Improvements Project
Description: This project will provide a 575-foot section of sidewalk along Airport Road to extend the sidewalk from Ridgecrest Elementary to the park. Additional safety improvements include a pedestrian crossing at East Airport Road.

Burley             $191,000
Title: Highland Avenue and East 19th Street Sidewalk Connection
Description: This project will provide nearly a half-mile of new sidewalk and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant ramps that connect two schools along Highland Avenue. The schools are White Pine Intermediate and Dworshack Elementary.

Caldwell          $109,446
Title: Sacajawea Elementary School Project
Description: This project will provide new sidewalk, updated ADA curb ramps, bike lanes, and streetlights, and a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon along Illinois Avenue to provide a safe route to school for children travelling to Sacajawea Elementary.

Carey               $154,640
Title: Crosswalk Signage and Pedestrian Improvement Project
Description: This project will provide new curb, gutter, and sidewalk along ID-26 and a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon to provide a safe crossing for pedestrians walking across the state highway.

Driggs               $125,000
Title: South 5th Street Pathway
Description: This project will provide approximately 1,600 feet of 10-foot-wide multiuse path and ADA ramps along South 5th Street, connecting four schools to residential areas. This project extends an existing safe route to school.

Firth                  $250,000
Title: Children Pedestrian Improvements
Description: This project will provide new curb, gutter, and sidewalk along Center Street from Main St. (ID-91) to the elementary school. Additional safety improvements include a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon signal on Main St.

Idaho Falls         $240,000
Title: Iona Street, Riverside Drive and Bush Elementary Connections
Description: This project will provide new sidewalk along Iona Street and a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon for safe crossings at Riverside Drive (a busy street near an interchange). A second location includes sidewalk connections to Bush Elementary.

Marsing              $35,326
Title: ID-55 Sidewalk Project
Description: This project will provide new sidewalk along ID-55, connecting the public library and downtown with the elementary, middle, and high schools.

Moscow             $250,000
Title: Third Street Corridor Improvements
Description: This project will provide about 970 feet of new sidewalk along 3rd Street, connecting two elementary schools and the high school along a safe route to school. Additional safety improvements include adding center medians, curb extensions, vertical tube delineator (high-visibility markings), and school-zone lighting.

Shelley                $135,000
Title: Locust and US-91 Improvements
Description: This project will install a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon at the intersection of ID-91 and Locust Street to provide a safe pedestrian crossing for students going to the school or library.

Teton                  $28,000
Title: Child Pedestrian Safety Project
Description: This project will install Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons at two intersections along ID-33 south of Teton Elementary to provide safe crossing for students going to and from school.