Idaho motor vehicle fatalities on pace for 50-year low

As 2011 winds down, Idahoans can be thankful that motor vehicle fatalities in the state have declined dramatically, according to preliminary ITD statistics.

With less than a week remaining in 2011, Idaho’s motor vehicle fatalities are on pace to be the lowest recorded since the state began tracking the statistics in the early 1960s.

Data collected by ITD’s Office of Highway Safety show that from January through mid-December 158 fatalities were recorded statewide. Last year, during this same time period, Idaho recorded more than 200 fatalities. A total of 209 people died in motor vehicle crashes on Idaho highways in 2010.

“Our highway safety partners are committed to eliminating death and serious injury on all roadways in Idaho using enforcement, education, engineering and emergency response,” explained ITD Highway Safety Manager Brent Jennings.

“These numbers are encouraging because they represent better driving choices, fewer family tragedies and more lives saved,” Jennings said. “But this isn’t good enough. The department is committed to achieving a goal of no deaths on Idaho highways.”

Jennings offered tips for safe driving, beginning with keeping your vehicle properly maintained: practice defensive driving; do not initiate or participate in aggressive driving; keep an eye on the other guy and be prepared for the unpredictable; don’t follow too closely; use extra care when traveling in bad weather; always wear a seat belt; avoid distractions; don’t drive drowsy; don’t speed; and never drive impaired.  

“The Idaho Transportation Department will continue to improve safety with engineering and driver behavior programs, but it takes each of us pulling together as a team to eliminate death and serious injury on the highway by making good driving choices,” he said.

Motorists should take extra care when driving the state’s rural highways where three out of four Idaho motor vehicle fatalities occur. “Too many drivers take their attention away from driving and simply run off the road and overturn or crash into a fixed roadside object,” Jennings said. “Your best defense in these types of situations is to always wear your seat belt.”

Idaho’s downward trend is not unique. Nationwide, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that the number and rate of traffic fatalities in 2010 fell to the lowest levels since 1949 despite a significant increase in the number of miles Americans drove during the year.

“Our goal is to sustain this downward trend in 2012,” Jennings said.

Published 12-30-2011