Idaho, tragically, could be on track to reaching a record number of motorist fatalities this summer.
Idaho Transportation Department officials said late last week that there had been 56 fatalities reported so far during the 100 Deadliest Days — the dangerous driving period between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
But that alarming number had already gone up to 62 by Tuesday.
That works out to more than a death for each day since Memorial Day.
Bill Kotowski, ITD’s public information specialist, says there were 60 deaths in the same time frame last year, and that was one of the deadliest seasons in Idaho with 96 deaths.
“Over the last few years, the number of deaths on our roads during the summer months have been trending upward,” he wrote in an email response to the Journal.
That’s why officials are hoping to prevent even more deaths from occurring this year.
More than 50 state and local law enforcement agencies have partnered with ITD to reduce fatal and serious injury crashes on Idaho roads, according to a news release. Law enforcement started conducting extra patrols last weekend and will continue their efforts through Aug. 4.
ITD officials say the three most common contributing factors in Idaho wrecks are aggressive, distracted and impaired driving. Officers are watching for those types of dangerous behaviors and are looking for seat belt use as well.
“We hope this mobilization reduces crashes on our roads,” Kotowski wrote. “The overwhelming majority of our crashes (94 percent) are caused by human error, and seeing more officers on the roads is often a good reminder for drivers to focus on the road and drive safely.”
There tend to be more motorcycles — there have been at least 15 motorcyclist fatalities so far this season — as well as pedestrians and construction work on the roads during the summer months, ITD officials said. So it’s important for motorists to pay attention.
And Kotowski notes that there could be thousands of additional vehicles on the roads this summer with the upcoming Aug. 21 solar eclipse.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event, and we want everyone to safely enjoy it,” Kotowski wrote, adding that travelers should plan ahead, pack food and water in their vehicles, and keep their fuel tanks full. “There will be a lot of extra cars on the roads so it’s important to focus on the drive and be patient.”
Kotowski urges all Idaho drivers to buckle up and put distractions away. In addition, he reminds people who choose to drink to have a designated driver.
Kotowski says people need to watch out for each other so that everyone can make it home to their families at night.
“Our goal is to see zero fatalities on Idaho roads,” he wrote. “We can all change small behaviors behind the wheel ... to make that goal a reality.”