Turn down that car stereo, put down that cellular phone, slow down a little, and for crying out loud, don’t drive while drunk.
Apparently, not enough people in Post Falls have been listening to police requests for safer driving.
This city had just over twice as many injury, alcohol-related accidents per 1,000 residents as other cities its size in Idaho last year, according to an annual state report on traffic accidents.
In Post Falls, there were 1.25 injury accidents involving alcohol for every 1,000 people. That’s more than any other city in the five Panhandle counties and more than double Coeur d’Alene’s rate of .52.
“I don’t really have a set answer of why that is. I think it’s a few things,” said Post Falls Sgt. Scot Haug on why Post Falls has so many traffic problems.
For one thing, Post Falls has grown rapidly over the past several years, and for a while, the police department had trouble staffing enough officers to keep up with the growth, Haug said.
The Post Falls Police Department recently received a $29,200 grant from the state to designate one officer - Officer Bob Lindstrom - to patrol for drunken drivers and seat belt violators.
That helps, Haug said.
With more accidents overall than three-fourths of other cities of similar size in the state, Post Falls drivers apparently can’t drive particularly well when sober either.
“They pass when they shouldn’t. They turn when they shouldn’t. They don’t obey stop signs. They turn into the wrong lane,” said Post Falls police Officer Dan Brown, listing a few of the most common accident-causing bad habits of Post Falls drivers.
“A lot of smart people get into bad situations because of momentary lapses of attention,” he said.
Seltice Way and state Highway 41 is Post Falls’ most accident-prone intersection. Seltice Way and Fourth Street is second, and the intersections of Seltice Way and Cedar Street and Interstate 90 and Pleasant View Road are tied for third worst, according to the Post Falls Police Department.
At Seltice and Highway 41, most accidents are rear-enders caused by people following too closely or driving too fast for conditions, Brown said.
At Seltice and Fourth Street, “what we have here is a failure to yield problem and rear-enders,” he said.
“Fourth and Seltice seems to be the worst for damage. I’ve seen cars on their sides, T-bones, head-ons. Anytime you have two people coming straight on, you’re basically combining their speeds.”
In 1995, the accident rate in Post Falls - 12.7 accidents for every 1,000 people - was nearly twice the mean for similarly sized cities - 6.4 for every 1,000 people that year.
In 1996, that rate came down to 8.3 accidents for every 1,000 residents. The mean rate was 6.2.
Nearby Coeur d’Alene motorists can’t point any fingers at bad drivers in Post Falls.
This town may be leading the pack of reckless roadsters around here for alcohol-related accidents, but motorists in Coeur d’Alene tied with motorists in Nampa for the highest rate of accidents overall in 1996 - 10 for every 1,000 people - for cities with between 15,000 and 39,999 people. Coeur d’Alene’s rate of accidents per 1,000 was higher than Post Falls’ rate of 8.3 accidents per 1,000 and higher than all other cities in the Panhandle.
Rathdrum’s rate of accidents per 1,000 people - 3.8 - falls just over the mean of 3.5 for cities its size.
In Kootenai County overall, the rate was 7.7, slightly under the mean rate for counties its size.
Three things help cut down on accidents at any given intersection, Brown said: education, enforcement and engineering.
He urged commuters to review their drivers guides and drive defensively - tactics that will decrease accidents at a much lower cost to taxpayers than re-engineering intersections or hiring more law enforcement personnel for traffic patrol.
And in addition to the high cost of adding new traffic lights, “a traffic signal kind of is a double-edged sword,” said John Perfect, district one traffic engineer for the Idaho Transportation Department.
Traffic lights ease three of the main problems with most troublesome intersections: high volume, low visibility and lots of uncontrolled turns.
“It allows you to deal with a lot of the turning accidents, but it replaces them with rear-enders,” Perfect said.
Brown doesn’t think reengineering Post Falls’ troubled intersections will solve the problem.
“Realistically, I think it’s going to come down to enforcement because you can engineer the heck out of an intersection and you’re still going to have accidents,” Brown said.