(Idaho State Police Press Release, November 18, 2022)
MERIDIAN, Idaho – With winter and the holiday travel season upon us, it is time to prepare for challenging driving conditions to avoid unnecessary risks during inclement weather. Up to 40 law enforcement and public safety agencies around the state are joining forces to launch a Winter Driving Extravaganza campaign. This safety campaign aims to inform Idahoans of increased emphasis patrols for seat belt violations and impaired driving and provide public education on winter driving and snowplow safety.
“It is important for all of us to work together and make a difference in our communities,” says Idaho State Police Director Kedrick Wills. “We want people to know how to safely drive during winter conditions, wear their seat belts, and always choose to drive sober. One life lost is one too many. This winter, our goal is for Idahoans to arrive safely at their destination.”
Through the Office of Highway Safety (OHS), there will be increased funding to support local patrols focused on enforcing seat belt violations. Idaho collision data shows that from 2015-2019, 56% of vehicle occupants killed were not restrained, and 1,207 unrestrained occupants were critically injured. While seat belt use has increased, more than one in ten Idahoans do not buckle up. Of the single-vehicle fatal crashes in 2019, 72% of those killed were not wearing seatbelts. These preventable deaths take lives from our communities.
“Wearing a seat belt should be a habit. Most of us don’t expect to be involved in a crash, but it is sometimes unavoidable,” said Nampa Police Chief Joe Huff. “Seat belts save lives, and you can’t put one on after a collision. Law enforcement issues tickets as a form of education, but sadly, part of our job includes seeing the results when people don’t buckle up. Do the right thing and make it home safely.”
Additional patrols will focus on impaired driving. Although 100% avoidable, over 11,500 people died in drunk-driving crashes throughout the U.S. in 2020, one death every 45 minutes. In Idaho, 92 people died. Impairment isn’t only caused by alcohol; it includes marijuana or any substance that impairs driving ability. Many substances slow coordination, judgment, and reaction times. While law enforcement may patrol for impaired drivers, prevention is a shared community responsibility.
“It may be unthinkable, but it is far too common to lose a loved one to an impaired driver,” says Engineer Jesse Barrus of District 4 with the Idaho Transportation Department. “There is no reason to drive impaired when so many safe alternatives exist. Impaired driving, of any kind, is completely preventable and puts every Idahoan at risk. Do the right thing. Choose to drive sober or get a ride.”
Plan ahead–Don’t drive impaired
- Plan a safe and sober ride home ahead of time.
- Find a ride if you smoke or ingest any impairing substance.
- If someone is impaired, don’t let them get behind the wheel.
- Always wear a seat belt.
- It’s your best defense against impaired drivers.
Winter driving can be treacherous, and drivers are reminded to prepare for adverse conditions. Statewide, more than 16,000 crashes occurred during inclement weather between October 1, 2021, and April 30, 2022, with many crashes caused by unsafe driving in snow, ice, and other wet conditions.
Let others know your travel plans, especially if driving through areas with no cell service. Check in when you arrive.
Adjust your driving to handle changing conditions
- Slow down & drive at a safe speed
- Don’t drive into the storm – Get to a safe place, off the roadway, and wait
- Remain in your vehicle until visibility improves – even if a crash occurs
- Increase your following distance
- Be cautious of other stopped or slow-moving vehicles
- Don’t pass or change lanes unless necessary
Prepare your vehicle
- Full tank of gas & windshield washer fluid
- Use all-season or studded snow tires
- Chains, tow rope, & cat litter/cardboard for emergency traction
- Blanket & warm clothes
- Shovel, jumper cables, & windshield scraper
- First aid kit, knife, flashlight with extra batteries
- Non-perishable food & bottled water
- Cell phone & charger
- Focus on the road and remain alert for potential roadway hazards (animals, trees, etc.)
- Take necessary breaks to reduce fatigue
- Be aware of hidden dangers like icy overpasses & bridges, open ground blizzards, hills, stop lights/signs, and ruts in the roadway for water build-up.
ITD has over 550 snowplow operators annually, traveling 3.4 million miles to clear roads across Idaho.
Give snowplows plenty of room to work
- The safest place is behind the plow after a road is clear
- Never pass on the right
- Keep them safe!
Know before you go
- Check the weather forecast before traveling
- IDT winter road conditions (511.idaho.gov)
- National Weather Service updates (www.weather.gov)
Nearly 50 law enforcement and safety agencies will participate in the Winter Driving Extravaganza to keep our roadways safe. Funding for extra patrols and overtime work focused on impaired driving enforcement is provided by a grant through OHS and NHTSA.