Getting panhandle drivers “Idaho Ready” for winter!

ISP Trooper and ITD plow driver teaching during a winter driving safety class in Coeur d'Alene

Each year the Idaho Transportation Department urges people to be “Idaho Ready” for winter, and two employees in North Idaho are putting those words into action!

For anyone new here, “Idaho Ready” is a campaign rolled out each year through the Idaho Office of Highway Safety encouraging residents to understand that in our beautiful state there are a few strings attached when it comes to winter driving. Being prepared for conditions, understanding safety, and planning ahead are all tools that can help drivers get from point A to B successfully and safely during our cold, snowy months.

To help drivers, especially those new to the road or to Idaho, TJ Gibson and Gary Davis have stepped up to the plate volunteering to teach winter safe driving courses throughout the panhandle.

When it comes to teaching, Gary is a seasoned professional, having taught the SNOW (Safely Navigate Our Winters) curriculum in conjunction with driver education courses in Bonner County for the last two and a half years.

“This information is important for kids, not just during the fall and winter months, but all year long,” said Davis. To ensure teens during warm-weather classes receive the same information, Gary teaches this course every 2 months in Sandpoint. “I have fun working with them, and I know it makes an impact because there have been times that I’ve run into these kids with their parents in the community and they will pull mom or dad over and introduce them to me saying ‘that’s him, he was the one who taught us all about winter driving and snowplows!’”

“It feels good knowing what I do leaves a lasting impression on these kids and knowing that what I’m up here teaching them is helping to save lives.”

For the first time ever, ITD has also teamed up this fall with Idaho State Police Troopers to offer free Winter Safe Driving courses to the public. Course attendees sit through a 90-minute presentation that covers vehicle preparation, appropriate speed and steering for conditions, and crash safety by Trooper Troy Tulleners, who is featured statewide in a weekly Traffic Tip Tuesday social media vlog. The class is then rounded out by ITD plow operators explaining our snow-fighting methods, equipment and how drivers can interact safely with plows on the road.

On November 4, Gibson, Foreman of the 170 CDA Metro Crew, stood in front of an audience of over 70 teens and adults, introducing them to the world of winter-maintenance operations, road clearing and most importantly, the often-unseen but ultra-effective wing plow that is involved in a majority of strike incidents.

“Of course, when a plow gets hit, the safety of everyone involved is what we worry about most. Beyond that, you also need to understand the time and cost involved with those crashes and what the implications of that are for our force,” explained Gibson. “Each one of those machines is critical to our ability to keep the roads clear and safe, so when one goes down, that means risk goes up.”

“I live in this community too, just like you all, and I’m not immune to being stuck behind a plow every now and again too, but a little bit of patience goes a long way to keeping everyone safe and keeping those trucks on the road.”

Understanding the importance of winter-driving safety, especially when it comes to proper vehicle equipment, several local Les Schwab Tires stores have also partnered with us for these courses, offering a 10% discount on a new set of winter tires to any class participants who bring in their certificate of completion.