Aggressive driving, DUIs account
for 95 percent of Idaho's traffic fatalities
Although Idaho had an eight percent decrease in its 2008 traffic fatality rate over 2007, the two most common causes of motor vehicle fatalities remained the same. Aggressive drivers accounted for 54 percent of Idaho's 2008 fatal crashes, and impaired drivers accounted for 41 percent of Idaho's 2008 fatalities crashes.
"Of the 232 people killed in fatality crashes in Idaho in 2008, 196 were either driving aggressively or driving under the influence of alcohol," said Trooper Tyler Barrett of the Idaho State Police. "Sadly, statistics provided by the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) also show youthful drivers, those between the ages of 15 and 19, are 2.8 times as likely as all other drivers to be involved in a fatal or serious injury crash."
As a resident trooper in the Mini-Cassia area, Barrett works many accidents each year in which he sees firsthand the human side of these statistics.
"On May 17, a single-vehicle accident resulted in the loss of three lives in Minidoka County," Barrett said. "The driver of the vehicle and two of the three children riding in the vehicle were killed. In this crash, the driver's blood alcohol content or BAC, was .136. The legal BAC limit in Idaho is .08."
In the Mini Cassia area through July of 2009, there have already been 69 DUI arrests in Cassia County and 86 DUI arrests in Minidoka County.
Barrett said loss of life isn't the only cost in a motor vehicle accident. Information provided by ITD shows in 2008 there were 6.5 serious injuries for every person killed in a motor vehicle crash, and ITD also estimates the average cost to every Idaho taxpayer for a single crash is $1,700.
While aggressive drivers and impaired drivers were the main cause of most of the 2008 accidents that resulted in fatalities, ITD statistics show another major contributing cause to motor vehicle fatalities is failure to wear a seatbelt.
In its annual Idaho Traffic Crashes 2008 report, ITD statistics showed only 33 percent of the motor vehicle occupants killed in crashes were wearing seatbelts.
"If everyone had been wearing seat belts, 53 lives may have been saved," the report states. "There were 105 unbelted passenger motor vehicle occupants killed in 2008."
Barrett said the incidents of excessive speeding and hazardous moving vehicle violations have increased on Idaho roads this past summer.
"Troopers are also seeing a high number of seatbelt violations, especially in Minidoka and Cassia Counties," he added. "Unfortunately an alarming number of seat belt violators are young drivers."
Barrett said many people don't realize the staggering impact on a community of aggressive drivers or impaired drivers until the tragedy hits home.
"The triple fatal crash in May hit the Mini Cassia community very hard," he said. "One of the main goals we have as troopers is to aggressively seek out and arrest impaired drivers and cite aggressive drivers."