To pass or not to pass?

It’s a cold, windy, snowy night driving on the interstate. You’re in a hurry to get home from a long day at work, but you can’t see very well in the snowstorm. Cruising along, you drive up on some flashing lights and realize it’s a snowplow ahead.

As you get closer to the plow, you think, “What should I do? Should I pass, or do I stay behind the plow?” When encountering a snowplow, we have a few safety tips to take into consideration.

First things first, please slow down. When you approach a snowplow, the driver may not be able to see you. Snowplows have many blind spots, and when the plow is in use, they have even more limited visibility. Drivers hit many plow trucks each year, which endangers the drivers of both vehicles and other motorists in the area. Leaving more space between the plow and your vehicle gives the plow driver and you more time to react should you hit ice or another problem. Driving too close behind the plow can also expose your vehicle to de-icing materials. When approaching a plow, slow down and be aware of your surroundings.

In heavy snowfall and icy road conditions, the safest place to drive is behind a snowplow at a safe distance. Too often, drivers pass the plow and end up driving at a slower speed than the plow itself, in turn, slowing everyone down.

Passing at elevated speeds on icy road conditions is risky. If you should pass a plow, do not pass on the right. There is a wing plow that is on the right side of the vehicle, extends up to 10′, and is typically masked by a snow plume that it creates when clearing the roadway of snow. Don’t pass on a corner, in an area with blocked views, or on an icy stretch that you are uncomfortable passing on; this makes a safer environment for you and surrounding motorists.

If you see a snowplow driving towards you from the opposite direction, be courteous. Again, please slow down and drive on the right side of your lane to give the snowplow enough room to do its job. Many state highways are narrow, so snowplows take up a little more space on the single lane as they need to plow the center line.

Let’s remember, plow drivers are working to make the road safer for everyone to drive. Using caution when driving around a plow can save someone from having a bad day, or even save a life. Snowplow drivers are our friends and neighbors; they have families too and want to end each shift safely. They drive in the most treacherous storms to keep roads open and as safe as possible for all of us. Please show them respect, give them the space they need to work, be attentive, and, most of all, drive safe. We want you and our plow drivers to get home safely every day!

Be Here Tomorrow: Holiday Impaired Driving campaign kicks off statewide

The holidays are here. That means it’s time for eggnog, ugly sweaters, and our yearly effort to get drunk drivers off the roads. This is an effort is to remind Idahoans to Be Here Tomorrow and to celebrate safely and to have a plan for a sober ride home.

This year, the Office of Highway Safety and law enforcement agencies across the state will get some help from an unexpected place – 210 unexpected places to be exact.

During the holiday season, messages reminding revelers to celebrate safely will appear on interactive jukeboxes in 210 bars around Idaho, many of them in rural areas where impaired driving is more prevalent. As bar-goers celebrate the holidays at participating bars, they will see messages encouraging them to get a sober ride home.

In addition to seeing OHS messages, jukebox users will also be able to earn a free song by participating in a quiz about drunk driving. Most importantly, the screen will provide numbers for local taxi services and wait times for ride share services.

The goal of this new approach is to help people make the right choice before they get behind the wheel – law enforcement officers will be on the lookout for those who make the wrong choice.

Check 511 before you hit the road this weekend

With winter weather bearing down on much of the state, a new and improved version of the 511 Traveler Information System is ready to help with your travel plans.

The improved site, still at 511.idaho.gov, offers an updated look and makes it simpler to find useful information for navigating winter roads statewide. The 511 slogan — “Know B 4 U Go” — is a reminder that it’s best to get road condition information before you get behind the wheel and start your trip. Factoring in conditions along your travel route will help you safely get to your destination and back home again.

511 has several tools to show winter road conditions. Snowplow drivers report into headquarters after they maintain a section of road. That report shows up on a color-coded map of the highway. You can see at a glance where ice, snow or low visibility may be impacting driving conditions. From those color-coded road sections, you can navigate to view more details and access short-term weather forecasts for that section of roadway. If conditions are difficult enough to cause a weather delay for drivers, that will be indicated on the map along with delay details.

Another popular feature on 511 is the roadway cameras. Lousy weather conditions show up as alerts and will flag what weather conditions might make driving hazardous. 511 will also display winter storm warnings. The cameras can be useful for planning highway trips or navigating across cities during busy, snowy rush hours.

511 was used over 5.6M times last year, and usage is expected to increase with the improved website and app. ITD welcomes user feedback, and based on user experience, ITD will continue to modify and improve the site over the next few months.

Are you traveling for the holidays? Before you leave for grandma’s house, check 511.idaho.gov, call by phone at 511 or download the Idaho 511 app. The app is a convenient way to stay connected during your travels and check for delays or road updates along the way. Stay safe and happy holidays!

 

 

How Idaho drivers prepare for winter, even first timers

A sign welcomes drivers to Idaho on Lookout Pass on I-90.

“You should change the speed limit signs when it’s snowing so we know what’s safe.”

That’s what one driver told an officer after she was pulled over on a winter night for going 70 mph on the freeway in black ice conditions.

If you’re not used to driving in the winter, this might seem like a good idea. But in truth, safety is the responsibility of every driver, regardless of the weather. And being prepared for winter driving requires a combination of experience and education.

In Coeur d’Alene, the police department remembers that night as one spent driving from crash scene to crash scene, checking for injuries without even the time to prepare crash reports.

“It seemed like every 100 yards there would be another crash,” said Nick Knoll, an officer on the traffic team at CDA PD.

Since experience only comes with time, many local police departments focus on educational programs to help new winter drivers. Knoll has been with the department since 2002, and since 2016, he has taught winter driving classes for those either looking for a refresher course or an introduction into North Idaho winters.

His class can be summarized in four main points, all of which provide great advice for new winter drivers:

  • Don’t drive during storms if you don’t have to – ask yourself if that trip to the store can wait.
  • Pay attention – winter driving conditions can be unforgiving of even the smallest mistakes.
  • Practice – just like you did in high school, find an empty parking lot and practice.
  • Prepare your vehicle – snow tires are strongly recommended.

“We teach drivers to drive what is safe for their abilities and their vehicles,” Knoll said.

More than 2,000 drivers have taken the course, a two-hour event offered October through November.

“We get about 65 drivers each class,” Knoll said. “Our audience varies in terms of age and gender, but each time roughly 90 percent of the class is about to experience winter driving for the first time.”

According to Knoll, people who take the class are most surprised by the difference snow tires can make. Officers play this video to show the difference, and this year Les Schwab donated ice scrapers to all participants, raffled off two emergency car kits and offered a 10 percent discount on snow tires.

“We get a lot of engagement after class, and drivers tell us we make winter seem less daunting,” Knoll said.

The classes in Coeur d’Alene are free, with multiple sessions held each fall in the evenings and on weekends. Next year call the Coeur d’Alene Police Department at (208) 769-2320 to sign up, or if you would like to teach a similar course, contact Knoll for more information.

Until then, drive for conditions, stay engaged and check the newly improved 511.idaho.gov so you know before you go.

Knoll (far right) with fellow officer recognizing a sober driver.

Safety Service Patrol on I-84 showcases its value in first week of operations

It’s Day 2 of operations for the Safety Service Patrol in the I-84 Corridor and the service is showing its value as it cleared a three-vehicle crash quickly during Monday’s morning commute.

The crash happened during the peak drive time on eastbound I-84 near the Northside Blvd. Exit. Patrol driver Craig Parker came upon the crash shortly after it occurred and was the first on scene. Parker quickly contacted emergency services to get the full response rolling.

“Two of the three vehicles were able to drive off the highway and get to a safe location out of traffic,” said Parker. “I got the third attached to my tow truck and pulled it to the Jackson’s parking lot. ISP and a second tow truck were already waiting to take care of the rest of the incident.”

Thanks to the presence of the Patrol, traffic flow returned to normal quicker than normal. Parker says from crash to hand-off, the whole thing took less than an hour – the impact to the traveling public was even less than that.

“If this crash was treated normally, traffic would have been backed up for at least an hour and a half,” said ITD Emergency Response Manager Neal Murphy. “The time it would take for someone to contact law enforcement, then a tow company – the tow truck would have been stuck in traffic on the way to the crash – this was a perfect example of why we started the Safety Service Patrol.”

The Safety Service Patrol will operate Monday-Friday during the morning and evening commutes:

– 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. between the Karcher/Midland and Garrity interchanges, and
– 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. between the Ten Mile and Karcher/Midland interchanges.

Disabled cars, trucks or motorcycles will be towed to the Jacksons parking lot near the Franklin Boulevard Interchange (1407 N. Franklin Blvd.). Motorists will be responsible to arrange to retrieve their vehicles within 24 hours.

Although the Safety Service Patrol will be out actively searching for disabled vehicles, drivers can still call 911 or *ISP in an emergency.

Idaho’s “Move Over” law requires drivers to move into the next lane for tow trucks, incident response vehicles and emergency personnel.

ITD introduces new Safety Service Patrol for I-84 construction zone in Nampa

A Tow Truck

The Idaho Transportation Department is launching a safety patrol and courtesy towing service on Friday to assist disabled vehicles and keep traffic moving safely through the Interstate 84 construction zone in Nampa.

The Safety Service Patrol will operate Monday-Friday during the morning and evening commutes:

– 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. between the Karcher/Midland and Garrity interchanges, and
– 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. between the Ten Mile and Karcher/Midland interchanges.

Disabled cars, trucks or motorcycles will be towed to the Jacksons parking lot near the Franklin Boulevard Interchange (1407 N. Franklin Blvd.). Motorists will be responsible to arrange to retrieve their vehicles within 24 hours.

In the event of a crash, emergency services and police must first render medical assistance and gather information for an investigation before the scene can be cleared. Vehicles will be relocated to the Jackson’s lot as soon as that work is complete.

“Our top priority is to keep the I-84 work zone safe for everyone. Even a minor incident, like running out of gas, is likely to cause delay or create an unsafe situation for other people on the road,” said Mark Campbell, ITD’s GARVEE construction project manager. “The Safety Service Patrol will work closely with our state communications office and Idaho State Police to monitor road conditions, report incidents and clear disabled vehicles from the roadway as quickly as possible.”

Although the Safety Service Patrol will be out actively searching for disabled vehicles, drivers can still call 911 or *ISP in an emergency.

Idaho’s “Move Over” law requires drivers to move into the next lane for tow trucks, incident response vehicles and emergency personnel.

For more information about I-84 construction in Canyon County, listen to the Drive Idaho podcast or visit itdprojects.org/84corridor.

Intersection closure to occur next week on 200 South Road east of Jerome

The west side intersection of US-93 and 200 South Road in Jerome County will be closed starting Monday of next week (Dec. 16). This closure will allow utilities work to occur in the area. Work is expected to be completed within the week.

Motorists will need to utilize 100 South Road or 300 South Road while this closure is in place. Drivers should be aware of crews and equipment while traveling through the area. US-93 will remain fully open during this time.

This work is in connection with the larger US-93, 200 South Road project, which will widen the existing roadway to four lanes.

“This project will improve safety at the US-93/200 South intersection for both passenger and commercial vehicles,” said ITD Project Manager Sam Purser. “The end result will be a divided highway similar to what drivers encounter two miles south of this area.”

Idaho Materials and Construction is the prime contractor for this project.

Northgate opening Dec. 6 marks fulfillment of extensive process, unique partnership

Northgate Interchange Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Three years after negotiations began, and 11 years after District 5 first mentioned the need for a new interchange at the location, the new Northgate Interchange opened to traffic on Dec. 6. It was fueled by a unique public-private partnership that brought the Interstate 15 interchange to reality at least two decades sooner than anticipated.

The collaboration of developers, cities, county, and many many other agencies and parties is a first of its kind for Idaho. While planning and design took time to develop, construction lasted just a year.

Approximately 250 people attended the grand opening, which included a welcome and introductory remarks by ITD D5 District Engineer Todd Hubbard, followed by remarks from Speaker of the Idaho House of Representatives Scott Bedke, and Farhana Hibbert, regional director representing U.S. Senator Mike Crapo’s office, Buck Swaney, representing Millennial Development Partners, Bannock County Commissioner Steve Brown, Chubbuck Mayor Kevin England and Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad. Former ITD District Engineer Ed Bala wasalso able to attend.

Watch the video here from the Grand Opening celebration.

“The project was a celebration of great relationships built and excitement from the community,” said ITD Project Manager Greydon Wright.

“We are excited to see what this new interchange helps bring to the communities,” said Wright. “Thank you to everyone who helped and participated throughout this journey.”

The total project, which provides a new entrance to northeast Pocatello and adjacent Chubbuck, represents an investment of roughly $31 million, including connecting roads and infrastructure.

Before you go, don’t forget to pack your winter car emergency kit

Vehicles traveling in winter conditions

Of the many things that Idahoans know a lot about, one of them is how to be prepared. Prepared for the big game, prepared for the campout, and prepared for the road. Whether you’ve lived in Idaho your whole life or are a new resident, it’s important to do everything you can to prepare for an Idaho winter. As the cold weather sets in, so do winter road conditions.

So how do you prepare for Idaho winter travel? We recommend starting by calling or visiting 511.idaho.gov to check road conditions and alerting friends and family of your travel plans (especially if you are traveling through areas with poor cellular service). Take time to review a map and make sure you know your path of travel as opposed to relying solely on GPS navigation which can occasionally be incorrect. Once you’ve checked those things off your list, ensure you are prepared for whatever comes your way by packing a winter car emergency kit.

Keeping a winter car emergency kit on hand won’t just benefit you, but it could come in handy for others you come across while traveling. Here are some items we recommend you include when building your winter car emergency kit:

  • Flashlight with extra batteries to use as a light source and signal for help.
  • Jumper cables to jump your own vehicle or assist other motorists.
  • Tire pressure gauge to ensure you are driving with the optimum inflation.
  • Cat litter to use as traction on slick surfaces.
  • Small camping shovel to assist with removing snow around tires and tailpipes.
  • LED flares to alert motorists of a broken down vehicle or roadway obstruction.
  • First Aid Kit for minor injuries and emergencies.
  • High protein food and bottled water to keep you hydrated and give you energy should you be stuck for a period of time. If your food items are in cans, make sure you also have necessary items like a can opener and utensils in your kit as well.
  • Winter coats and gear such as hats, gloves, etc. to help keep your body temperature up.
  • Blanket or a small sleeping bag for warmth in freezing conditions.

Some of the items may seem excessive but if you run off the road, breakdown or simply get stranded during an extreme storm, these items will help keep you warm and safe until roadside or emergency services are able to reach you.

For those that already have a winter car emergency kit in a vehicle, make sure you do an annual check of items to ensure they are in good condition and working order – remember, food expires and batteries don’t hold their charge forever. Also, if you do find yourself stuck in the snow, don’t run your vehicle without first ensuring the tailpipe and up to three feet behind your vehicle is free of snow; this, along with opening your windows, will prevent deadly carbon monoxide from building up inside the automobile.

As a parting note, be sure to replace worn windshield wipers, keep gas in your car and have the proper tires on before driving in winter weather conditions. Keeping all of that in mind, you’ll be well on your way to being prepared for an Idaho winter.

ITD to open Northgate Interchange with ceremony Friday at 11 a.m.

Northgate Interchange

POCATELLO – The Idaho Transportation Department will hold a Grand Opening for the new Interstate 15 Northgate Interchange in Pocatello Friday (Dec. 6) at 11 a.m. The interchange will officially open to traffic that afternoon after the site is cleaned.

The Grand Opening will begin with a welcome from ITD District 5 Engineer Todd Hubbard. Comments will follow from: Farhana Hibbert, regional director for Senator Mike Crapo; Scott Bedke, Speaker of the House of Idaho House of Representatives; Buck Swaney, representing Millennial Development Partners; Bannock County Commissioner Steve Brown; Chubbuck Mayor Kevin England and Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad.

Following the brief ceremony, mayor Blad and mayor England will drive across the interchange deck.

The project is the result of a unique public-private partnership, the first of its kind in Idaho. Just three years after the agreement was signed, the interchange is complete and ready to open.

The total project, which provides a new entrance to northeast Pocatello and adjacent Chubbuck, represents an investment of roughly $31 million, including connecting roads and infrastructure.