Ensuring safe travel on Idaho’s highways was the primary focus for highway safety professionals from throughout the state who met in Boise Wednesday. The Idaho Transportation Department sponsored the all-day workshop that included discussion and strategies for improving safety.
“Safety for users is ITD’s highest priority,” said ITD Acting Director L. Scott Stokes as he welcomed nearly 100 participants gathered to work with ITD’s Office of Highway Operations and Safety to update Idaho’s strategic highway safety plan.
The goal of the collaborative effort is “Toward Zero Deaths – Every Life Counts,” explains Mary Hunter, ITD highway safety manager.
The meeting featured speakers from Washington and Missouri who talked about how their states succeeded in reducing highway fatalities. During afternoon sessions, participants developed strategies and action plans to reduce traffic deaths caused by impaired driving, aggressive driving, distracted driving, lack of seat belt use and others.
Tamiko Burnell, with the Federal Highway Administration, told attendees that all states need to update their statewide coordinated safety programs and offered guidelines for success:
Missouri Department of Transportation engineer Jon Nelson explained that data typically shows crash locations are random, but crash types are predictable.
“We don’t know exactly where these will happen, but we know why,” he said, noting that the top causes of traffic crashes have remained unchanged in Missouri since at least 2006. Missouri focuses on low cost, short term roadway fixes including rumble stripes, lane markings, and improved signage.
Angie Ward and Matthew Enders discussed the successes of Washington’s Corridor Safety Program. Washington’s “Target Zero Vision” is intended to eliminate fatal and serious crashes by 2030 through planning, collaboration and careful analysis of all available data, then targeting resource investments to generate the greatest safety benefits. Washington reports one of the lowest fatality rates in the nation.
“Idaho’s immediate task is to achieve fewer than 200 annual traffic deaths by 2012,” Hunter said. Last year, 232 people died on the state’s highways.
“We will focus on behavioral safety, utilizing programs proven effective, and will further develop the Idaho Highway Safety Coalition to help create and sustain a culture of safety on Idaho’s roads,” she said.
Highway Operations and Safety Engineer Brent Jennings said ITD is evaluating and developing programs consistent with successful programs from other states to address infrastructure solutions to reduce traffic deaths.
Examples include a Road Safety Audit Program, implementation of data-driven local safety corridors, and use of a system-wide approach to infrastructure safety issues by implementing low-cost, near-term improvements, especially in regard to lane departure crashes, a primary contributor to the toll of deaths, serious injuries and economic losses for Idahoans.
Hunter said a recent public opinion poll conducted by the University of Idaho for ITD showed that 87 percent of respondents believe risky driving behaviors – including speeding, impaired driving and failing to wear seat belts – resulted in increased costs to all Idahoans for medical and insurance costs.
Photos: Professionals from diverse backgrounds assembled this week to talk about how to reduce fatal crashes on Idaho highways (top). Acting ITD Director Scott Stokes (above right) emphasized that safety is ITD's highest priority. Missouri's Jon Nelson talked about how his state reduced fatal crashes (bottom), and attendees divided into groups for brainstorming sessions (above left).