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In a year marked by adversity and troubling headlines, it’s nice to hear some good news from the Idaho Transportation Department – traffic fatalities decreased for the second year in a row during the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day known as the 100 Deadliest Days.

We’re thankful for the responsible actions of safe drivers, improved traffic safety laws, and public awareness campaigns that all played a part in reducing the number of deaths on Idaho roads. But this year has been anything but ordinary, and the results benefit from additional context.

ITD’s tracking tool shows that traffic volumes increased across the Gem State for five years in a row, reaching 3.8 million vehicles per day in August 2019. And last year, AAA also projected the fifth straight year of travel volume growth over the Memorial Day weekend, the busiest year ever for Independence Day travel, and the 11th straight year of growth for Thanksgiving. With recent history as our guide, 2020 was expected to be one for the record books.

Then the pandemic hit. As a result of health precautions, stay-at-home orders, travel restrictions and school closures, many Idahoans abandoned their typical commutes and travel plans, and started spending more time at home. In April, Idaho traffic volumes plummeted to 2.3 million vehicles per day, about a million less than the year before. This trend of lighter traffic continued throughout the summer months.

While it’s impossible to know how the pandemic may have affected the number of crash fatalities in our state, one thing is clear – whatever the cause, things are heading in the right direction, and we can’t afford to let up now.

Idaho roads are getting busier again. In August, we reached 3.6 million vehicles per day, just 200,000 less per day than a year ago. As traffic congestion increases, we’ll all have to do our part to keep each other safe.

With cold, wet days on the horizon, it’s more important than ever for drivers to put safety first. Please put down your cell phones and focus on driving. Avoid excessive speed, even during light traffic. Take your vehicle to a trusted repair shop to make sure that your engine, tires and brakes are ready for winter. Please ask passengers to wear a seat belt, and always drink responsibly.

Someday, we hope to celebrate reaching our goal of zero deaths on Idaho roads. As we continue to work together, we’ll find innovative solutions to get there.

Matthew Conde is the public & government affairs director for AAA Idaho.

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