Ten years ago, the Euro was established, Texas Governor George W. Bush announced that he would seek the Republican Party nomination for President of the United States, the television series SpongeBob SquarePants premiered and Idaho’s safety belt use rate was 58 percent.
The year was 1999, and ITD’s Office of Highway Safety moved from third-floor of the Headquarters building to a triple-wide trailer for a two-year temporary stay while a new building was to be constructed between the Annex and the Print Shop.
Today, the triple wide remains home for 18 ITD highway safety personnel, but nobody is complaining.
“It’s kind of nice here,” said Susan Mulkey, Crash Data Supervisor for the Office of Highway Operations and safety.
Mulkey went on to explain Idaho’s consolidation of highway safety efforts.
Each state has a highway safety office, but Idaho is unique in that all highway safety components – crash data, crash analysis, safety programs and FARS (Fatality Analysis Reporting System) – are housed in one location and part of ITD.
“It is unusual to have all four components under one roof where people have easy access to driver and vehicle information, and highway location information.” Mulkey said.
“Having highway safety as part of highway operations brings engineering and safety components together under one roof,” said Highway Safety Manager Mary Hunter. “This works very well for highway safety and the citizen’s of Idaho.”
In 1985, the Office of Highway Safety began operations under ITD's Division of Highways where it remains today.
ITD’s highway safety efforts have contributed to legislation that continues to save lives, like establishment of the graduated driver’s license (GDL) process in 2001. Safety belt fines were increased in 2003, and the law was expanded cover to all seating positions while adding court costs to minor drivers. Revisions to the Child Passenger Safety Law in 2005 required all children up to age 7 be properly restrained.
The Highway Safety Office also was instrumental in the establishment of DUI courts throughout the state and helped fund Idaho’s first Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor, a legal resource that Idaho prosecuting attorneys can draw on for DUI court trials.
Many awards have followed including a 2004 AAMVA national award for the teenage driver Web site XTR4.com, a 2005 GHSA (Governors Highway Safety Association) award winner for work with impact crash reporting software and WebCARS crash analysis software.
Highway Safety’s public service advertisements have garnered national recognition, earning NTPAW (National Transportation Public Affairs Workshop) awards for, wearing safety belts, motorcycle safety and most recently a retro black-and-white public service advertisement promoting bicycle safety for youths.
Since 1999, highway fatalities dropped from 278 to 232 (as of 2008). During that same period, Idaho experienced significant population growth and increased use of the state’s highways. The state’s observed safety belt use rate grew from 58 percent in 1999 to 79 percent in 2008.
Though ten years have passed, the Highway Safety Office’s safety commitment continues to move forward as the office embarks on its new vision of “Toward Zero Deaths, Every Life Counts” and prepares a strategic highway safety plan that will guide ITD’s highway safety work for future years.
Photo: Highway Safety Manager Mary Hunter and her staff invite everyone at ITD to help celebrate 10 years in the trailer.