Still winter? Still driving? Check 511 before leaving

The snow is expected to fly again this weekend, particularly in the higher elevations, and drivers likely will be checking Idaho's 511 Traveler Services reports in record numbers for roadway conditions.

Between phone calls (dial 5-1-1 or 1-888-IDA-ROAD) and visits to the website (, the system has served 2.28 million people this winter, ITD announced. That already tops the 2.11 million who accessed the service during the entire 2008-09 snowy winter season.

Idaho's 511 system helps motorists make wise and safe travel decisions by giving them access to an array of condition reports before they leave home. Motorists can view highway conditions on more than 80 cameras strategically located throughout the state, check the latest road and weather conditions and quickly determine which routes offer driving challenges.

"We have made a number of significant upgrades to the system since last winter that will give users more options when planning their travel," explained Tony Ernest, ITD's Traveler Services coordinator.

"Our system has grown since 2005 to become one of the best rural 511 systems in the country. Recent improvements reflect our commitment to making it even better and more responsive to the needs of Idahoans."

ITD has improved reporting options for the low-bandwidth version of the 511 website, without compromising access or download speed. It has many of the features available on the high-bandwidth option.

Most Idahoans use slower Internet access to reach the 511 system.

Upgrades to the high-bandwidth option and the addition of a public transportation site are among the improvements in 2010.

While putting the latest travel reports in the hands of travelers, ITD also recognizes the need for safe driving. Drivers are strongly advised to pull off the highway to dial the 511 telephone system or access the mobile website. If possible, passengers can retrieve the information for drivers.

"All of the information our 511 system provides is designed to improve highway safety. For that reason, we really want drivers to call or check the website before beginning their trip," Ernest said.

Published 1-14-2011