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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Idaho

Idaho called fourth most fatal state for snow driving

Dec. 27, 2017 Updated Wed., Dec. 27, 2017 at 9:02 p.m.

Traffic along U.S. Highway 95 contends with the blowing snow and rough road contidtions with the snow piling up on the roadway Feb. 1, 2008 near Genesee, Idaho. (Steve Hanks / Associated Press)
Traffic along U.S. Highway 95 contends with the blowing snow and rough road contidtions with the snow piling up on the roadway Feb. 1, 2008 near Genesee, Idaho. (Steve Hanks / Associated Press)
By Garrett Cabeza Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Idaho is the fourth most dangerous state for driving in snow, according to a report by SafeWise, a website for home security and safety advice.

The report, which used data from 2016, said there were 11 reported car crashes resulting in at least one fatality in Idaho caused by snow. It said an Idaho driver has a 0.66 percent chance, per 100,000 people, of being in a fatal crash due to snow.

The state of Washington ranked 36th most dangerous for winter driving, said Sage Singleton, SafeWise community safety specialist. She said there were six reported fatality car crashes due to the snow, and there is only a 0.083 percent chance of a fatal crash in the snow.

Wyoming is the most dangerous state for snow driving, as the report said nine fatality crashes were reported in 2016. There is a 1.54 percent chance of a fatal crash in the Wyoming snow, the report said.

The report said SafeWise analyzed the number of fatal car crashes due to rain and snow in each state using the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2016 crash data. From there, SafeWise calculated the likelihood of inclement weather accidents occurring per 100,000 people in each state.

Singleton said while there were 11 fatality car crashes in Idaho, 12 fatalities resulted from the crashes.

She said she is unsure why Idaho ranks so high in car crashes due to snow compared to other states. She said this is the first year SafeWise conducted the report, and it would be interesting to see how the numbers vary in the future.

Singleton said the point of the study was to raise awareness of the dangers of winter driving.

“If you don’t need to go out in the snow or the rain, don’t,” Singleton said.

Otherwise, slow down, she added.

Moscow Police Capt. Roger Lanier also advised drivers to decrease speeds during rain and snow.

“Speed is your enemy,” Lanier said. “That’s the number one reason people crash in the snow.”

Lanier said people who end up in weather-related accidents generally drove too fast for the conditions and did not allow sufficient following or stopping distances. Drivers tend to rely on technology, such as antilock braking systems, and it does not always work as planned, he said.

There is always an increase in crashes after the season’s first snowfall, Lanier said, and when snow falls after a long period of no precipitation.

Lanier said he recommends good snow tires, and sometimes even chains are needed.

The SafeWise report also included the best and worst states for driving in rain.

Singleton said Idaho had 10 fatality car crashes due to rain in 2016 and there is a 0.6 percent chance per 100,000 people of getting in a fatal crash as a result of rain.

In Washington, she said there were 62 fatality car crashes due to rain and there is a 0.86 percent chance of getting in a fatal car crash as a result of rain.

Singleton said she was surprised the report indicated there were about five times as many fatal car crashes nationwide in rain as in snow. October is the worst month for both rain and snow-related crashes, the report said.

Black ice

Black ice is perhaps a driver’s worst nemesis.

Bryce Williams, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Spokane, said black ice is actually clear, not black as the name implies. However, it is difficult to see on black pavement which is how the name originated, he said.

“It’s just clear so that it looks like pavement, and you don’t notice it until you’re on it and lose traction,” Williams said.

Williams said black ice usually forms from either freezing rain or from melted snow which then freezes again at night to form ice.

Williams said raindrops from freezing rain can hit the road and freeze on contact, forming black ice.

While black ice can form anywhere on the road or sidewalk, shady areas and bridge surfaces are where it is most prevalent, Williams said.

He said sometimes the sun does not reach some areas in the shade and the surface does not dry. Ice forms on bridges quicker than other parts of the road since the ground is not directly underneath bridges to provide warmth, Williams said.

Black ice is one of the most dangerous winter hazards for drivers and pedestrians since it is nearly impossible to gain traction on it, Williams said.

If black ice is suspected on roads, Williams said he advises drivers to slow down considerably and brake gently to avoid losing traction. When walking, Williams said to slow the pace and take smaller steps.

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