Drivers can report road conditions via new 511 feature

November 27, 2013 

Changes to the 511 travel information system for Idaho are allowing drivers to report hazards and road conditions directly on the website.

Idaho Transportation Department spokesman Mel Coulter said the new additions were part of an ongoing process to update the system.

“We try to make improvements as often as possible to meet the demands of the 511 users,” he said.

Motorists can now add their own reports through the 511 website of conditions on stretches of road they traveled.

The reports can only be updated from a computer, meaning drivers can’t add information from the road. The system uses more bandwidth than a smartphone can support, Coulter said. But ITD officials also worried that drivers typing a report behind the wheel could lead to disastrous results.

“We don’t want people using the system … in a way that focuses their attention on 511 instead of the highway,” Coulter said.

He said people should wait to file updates until they arrive at their destination. A driver who spots something that could present an immediate danger should call 911 or Idaho State Police.

“In the past, the input of data has been pretty much up to our maintenance crews,” he said. But with more eyes on the road, especially during the travel-heavy holiday season, it just made sense to crowdsource.

“It involves the public, but it also gives us a more timely and accurate look at what’s out there,” Coulter said.

Here are ITD's instructions for reporting road conditions:

• Access the “Full Feature” option on the 511 main page.

• Log into the 511 system by choosing the “Sign In” tab at the far right of the full-featured site.

• Select the “Show List Views” button in the upper left of the menu.

• Open a preferred route or create a new one.

• After routes have been identified and saved, choose “Send us an update” to the right of the specific route.

• Three options appear: Clear, patchy and messy.

• Choosing “Clear” enters information about the route without opportunity for additional comments. Choosing “patchy” or “messy” offers additional options, such as snowy, icy, rainy, etc.

• A field below those options allows users to post short personal observations.

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