IDAHO — As COVID-19 restrictions loosen up, officials expect to see more Idahoans hitting the road. Memorial Day is the unofficial start to the summer travel season with AAA Idaho predicting massive crowds.
"Thirty-seven million Americans to travel, and 202,000 Idahoans among them. That's a 60% increase over last year during the heart of the pandemic,” said Matthew Conde, Public Affairs Director for AAA Idaho
Memorial Day is also the start of the 100 Deadliest Days. The three months between now and Labor Day typically see a big increase in fatal crashes. Idaho Transportation Department said 88 people died in vehicle crashes on Idaho roads during the period in 2020.
In a press release, ITD’s Office of Highway Safety (OHS) Manager John Tomlinson said,
“These warmer months are dangerous because we typically see more drivers on the road, with teens out of school and summer road trips underway,” Tomlinson said. “We also expect busier roads as COVID restrictions lift and Idahoans feel more confident and eager to get back on the road and travel.”
OHS plans to partner with local law enforcement agencies throughout the 100 Deadliest Days to target impaired and aggressive drivers.
Idaho State Police are already seeing those fatal summer accidents this year. On May 29, four people believed to be from California lost their lives in a crash near Marsing on Highway 95.
Also on Saturday, a motorcycle rider was killed in a collision with a tractor after police say the tractor failed to yield on Highway 75 east of Hazelton. The tractor was driven by Rigoberto Avila Gomez, 46, of Heyburn. Todd Bell, 46, of Hazelton was identified as the motorcycle rider.
On Sunday, a Caldwell man died after driving off the road on Highway 75 on Basic Creek Road east of Stanley.
The National Safety Council encourages drivers to take steps to reduce accidents, including:
- Prepare before you go: Before hitting the road, make sure your car is safe for driving. Vehicle owners should check the oil, put air in the tires, and check for and repair open recalls. Visit ChecktoProtect.org to see if your vehicle has an open recall, and get it repaired for free.
- Drive distraction-free: Thousands have died in crashes involving cell phone use. Put your phones away and #JustDrive.
- Slow down: Speeding is a factor in more than a quarter of all traffic fatalities. Drive the speed limit and do not exceed it. Be sure to pay attention to those walking and biking to keep all road users safe.
- Designate a sober driver or arrange alternate transportation: Alcohol is only one cause of impaired driving. Drugs, including opioids, marijuana, and some over-the-counter medicines, can cause drowsiness, alter visual functions and affect mental judgment and motor skills.
- Buckle up: Seat belts are estimated to have saved 374,276 lives. Buckle up, while also making sure you have appropriate car seats installed correctly.