Winter conditions visit Idaho; ITD preparing for responses

Winter weather began knocking at Idaho’s door this week, delivering snow at higher elevations, brief whiteout conditions and black ice on Interstate 90 near Post Falls.

ITD began preparing for the arrival several weeks ago, and by mid-week about half of the department’s fleet of six- and 10-wheel dump trucks had been converted from summer maintenance use to winter snow plowing and de-icing.

“We often receive a few early storms that remind us winter is around the corner and that we should begin to anticipate more difficult driving conditions,” said ITD Chief Engineer Tom Cole.

He encourages Idaho drivers to make sure their vehicles are ready for the coming season and to begin preparing for snow-covered roads.

“Preparation and anticipation are two strategies that will help ensure safe winter driving. Our highest priority is to provide the safest travel conditions possible. We have professionals assigned to winter maintenance, and they are ready for the challenges ahead. But we also ask drivers to do their part to make winter travel safer by exercising caution and patience," Cole added.

Use of studded tires became legal Oct. 1, although ITD recommends other options, such as studless tires, to maintain traction on highways.

ITD encourages motorists to:

  • Make sure vehicles are ready for winter travel by checking tires, fluid levels and brakes.
  • Increase awareness of possible winter highway conditions and adjust speeds accordingly
  • Maintain safe following distances when driving
  • Anticipate snow and ice, especially at higher elevations, in shaded areas and on bridges or overpasses
  • Check highway conditions before getting behind the wheel by calling 5-1-1 or visiting on the web

ITD introduced new options to the 511 Traveler Services program this year that allows drivers to tailor reports to their own needs. Registering on the website gives them the option of receiving direct reports for their preferred routes through e-mail, text messages or Twitter.

In the past, drivers were asked to take the initiative by checking the website or calling a toll-free phone number. Those options are still available, but this year the transportation department made information more customized and automated.

“Improvements to the system allow direct delivery of information, based on what drivers need, when they need it, and how they needed it,” explains Tony Ernest, manager of the system. “At the same time, we remind drivers that Idaho has enacted a new texting law.

“We encourage drivers to check on route conditions before getting behind the wheel. If on the road, have a passenger access the information or pull off at a safe place, such as a rest area, truck stop or service station to check on highway conditions.”

Winter conditions should not deter travel, Cole advises. In fact, it is one of the best times to experience the state’s geographic diversity.

“Idaho is never more beautiful than when it is dressed for winter. We hope drivers enjoy traveling through the state, regardless of seasons. But we also want them to stay safe by taking common precautions and to drive according to highway and weather conditions.”

See district preparations

Published 10-26-2012