It’s been 10 years, but Sheri Rogers still remembers the night she lived in a nightmare.
“I had that terrible knock on my door and an Ada County Sheriff’s detective delivered the news that my 16-year-old son, a 17-year-old girl and two other young men had been involved in a crash in the foothills surrounding Boise,” Rogers said.
On Thursday, Idaho law enforcement and public safety agencies partnered to launch a safety campaign to inform Idahoans about safe winter driving at the Idaho Transportation Department headquarters.
“We’re all committed to working and being proactive in saving lives in law enforcement, regardless of the agency or workflow. We’re in the business of saving and changing lives,” Director of Idaho State Police Kedrick Wills said. “No single agency can do that alone, but combined, we can do this all together and we hope we can make a big impact.”
Rogers can imagine the joy ride that took place 10 years ago — a car filled with laughter, music and conversations. But the driver was going too fast and missed a corner on a private road with no barriers. The car collided with a boulder. None of the occupants were wearing seat belts, Rogers said.
The car went airborne and landed down a 100-foot embankment. Passengers in the back seat were ejected from the vehicle, as was the driver, Rogers said. Her son was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.
“The most important and most heartbreaking thing that I have to share today is that the officers told me that this was a survivable crash,” Rogers said during the safety campaign. “We suffer the losses that we have because of the choices of others, whether it’s the choice of a driver, the choice of another oncoming vehicle’s driver or the passengers themselves.”
At the beginning of the holiday season each year, law enforcement reminds Idahoans of the winter roads.
“Unfortunately, last year during the same period of time, there were over 4,500 crashes on Idaho’s roadways that result in over 1,300 injuries. And tragically there were 26 fatalities,” Nampa Police Chief Joe Huff said.
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The No. 1 cause of crashes is inattention, Ada County Sheriff Matt Clifford said.
“The biggest thing I always tell people is you just have to have some patience,” Clifford said. “We see a lot of people that just don’t have patience, whether they’re late, or whether they just want to get in there too fast. They don’t drive patiently and so they start to drive recklessly.”
After spending 22 years in the sheriff’s office, Clifford said, he has seen crash rates go up as the county population grows. Winter is often the season of accidents.
“Our cars are built safely enough that people put too much trust in them. You get a false sense of security,” Clifford said.
The Idaho Transportation Department uses de-icing materials to keep roadways free from the slick winter conditions, ITD engineer Jesse Barrus said.
“Please use caution and only go out if necessary. If you do need to go out please be prepared with additional supplies and your vehicles for emergencies and cold weather,” Barrus said.
Drivers should not use cruise control or accelerate quickly during the winter, particularly in wet or icy conditions, Barrus said.
“In heavy snowfall and icy conditions, the safest place to drive is behind the snowfall at a safe distance,” Barrus said. “Too often we see drivers will speed up and get around a snowplow only to realize that the conditions are treacherous in front of them and then they slow down slower than the snowplow was going.”