Idaho State Police reports a spike in road fatalities this summer

From Memorial Day weekend through July 29, Idaho State Police troopers had responded to 45 traffic fatalities, a 61 percent increase over the 28 fatalities that ISP investigated during the same period last year.

“Summertime is known as the ‘100 deadliest days,’ and this is a prime example,” said Idaho Department of Transportation spokesperson Reed Hollinshead.

ISP wants to curb this deadly trend and remind folks to slow down, pay attention, drive sober and buckle up.

“Idaho State Police troopers will continue to do their best to make the roads safer during their patrols but they cannot be everywhere. Drivers need to take responsibility for their driving behaviors and help keep their families and other families on the roads safe. A few extra minutes in travel can save lives,” said ISP spokesperson Teresa Baker.

The causes of this summer’s crashes are still under investigation, but the usual culprit is likely to blame, officials said: drivers making poor decisions.

“Speed is a factor in many of the crashes. Drivers consistently drive 5 to 15 miles over the posted speed limit, and this occurs whether the speed limit is 55 or 80 mph,” said Baker.

In July 2014, Idaho increased the speed limit to 80 mph on nonurban stretches of the interstate. Initial data show the change has not resulted in an increase in fatalities. In the 12 months prior to the speed limit increase, ITD recorded 29 interstate fatalities — the same number of fatalities it recorded in the 12-month period following the increased speed limit.

Inattention is a factor in many crashes. And that’s not just texting — it’s any thing that gets the driver distracted enough to take their hands off the wheel or their eyes off the road.

“Distraction coupled with speed is a deadly combination,” said Baker. “There is little time to react to traffic slowing or your own vehicle veering off the road when speed increases.”

Other contributors to fatalities: aggressive driving, such as tailgating or weaving in and out of traffic; ignoring traffic signals; improper lane changes and speed; impaired, fatigued and inexperienced drivers; and failing to wear a seat belt.

“A number of the traffic deaths ISP has investigated may have been prevented if the driver and passengers were buckled up,” Baker said.

Idaho Transportation Department collects traffic fatality reports from all Idaho law enforcement agencies. Last year, these agencies reported 49 traffic fatalities in June and July. ITD has not yet received all reports for this year’s June and July traffic fatalities, but alone it has reported 45 fatalities since Memorial Day.

“We are in a continuous battle to educate drivers of the risks and how to avoid them. We advocate drivers to obey the speed limits, drive defensively and prudently, be cautious and courteous, and never drive impaired,” said Hollinshead. “Safety on our highways is always a top priority, and anything we can do to move the needle in that direction is our goal.”