Downtown Coeur d'Alene , Kootenai County. Courtesy of Quicksilver Photography.
TRAFFIC PATROL TEAM
The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Team was developed in the spring of 1998. The focus of the KCSO Traffic Team is to educate and influence motorists' behaviors through the enforcement of traffic laws and ordinances. Our overall goal is to reduce the number of traffic crashes and make travel on Kootenai County roads safer for everyone.
The Team participates in many State sponsored traffic details throughout the year. All of these "mobilizations" are part of the Idaho Transportation Department's campaign titled, "Towards Zero Deaths". These emphasis patrols are geared towards the detection and apprehension of impaired drivers. Impaired driving includes those drivers operating under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Other areas of focus include aggressive drivers, i.e. speeding, following too closely, running red lights, road rage, etc.; distracted drivers (texting for example) and seat belt violators. Crashes affect more than just the people involved. In addition to the emotional stress and devastation that follows a crash, especially a fatal one, there are far reaching financial impacts. These are referred to as economic costs. The estimated cost of Idaho crashes in 2012 was over $2.3 BILLION.
The Idaho Transportation Department releases a variety of statistical data collected from crash reports throughout the year. Although the numbers for 2014 have not been released as of yet, a summary of findings for CY 2013 are listed below:
-The number of motor vehicle crashes increased from 21,402 in 2012 to 22,347 in 2013.
- The number of fatalities resulting from motor vehicle crashes increased from 184 in 2012 to 213 in 2013; an 18 percent increase.
- The number of fatal crashes increased 169 in 2012 to 199 in 2013.
- The number of serious injuries decreased from 1,287 in 2012 to 1,262 in 2013; a 2 percent decrease.
- Fatalities resulting from impaired driving crashes increased in 2013 by 32 percent and 45 percent of all fatalities resulted from impaired driving, which is higher when compared with most other recent years. Of the 96 persons killed in impaired driving crashes, 92 (96 percent) were either the impaired driver, a person riding with an impaired driver, an impaired bicyclist, or an impaired pedestrian.
- Idaho's observed seat belt use increased slightly to 82 percent in 2013. If everyone had been wearing seat belts, 49 of the 97 unbelted motor vehicle occupants may have been saved.
- Aggressive driving was a contributing factor in 56 percent of the motor vehicle crashes and 84 people were killed in aggressive driving crashes in 2013.
- Distracted driving was a factor n 21 percent of the motor vehicle crashes in 2013 and 43 people were killed in distracted driving crashes.
- Youthful drivers, ages 15 to 19, continue to be over-involved in motor vehicle crashes. In 2012, youthful drivers were 2.5 times as likely as all other drivers to be involved in a fatal or injury crash. There were 26 people killed in crashes involving youthful drivers in 2013.
Now, these numbers may be a little hard to interpret as to how they might impact you or someone you know. Another way to view this is that somewhere in the State of Idaho, a crash occurred every 23.51 minutes! Someone was injured in one of those reported 22,347 crashes, every 6.94 hours, every day of the year, and someone was killed in a crash every 41.04 hours.
There are two deputies assigned to full time traffic enforcement duty. Additionally, there are two Sergeants and two more deputies who supplement by way of a callout team and a Lieutenant oversees the program. Collectively, the KCSO Traffic Team has well over a thousand hours of crash investigation schools, including Advanced Traffic Crash Investigation, Technical Collision well and Traffic Crash Reconstructionist. The team responds to and investigates traffic related crashes ranging from minor damage "fender benders" to "fatal" crashes, where a person or persons involved in the crash were killed. fall members of the team are on call at all times and can be paged at any hour of the day, in the event of a serious injury or fatal crash.
Although enforcement is in integral part of the Traffic Team’s mission, far greater effort is put forth in the realm of education. The Team actively participates in multiple programs and events designed to educate drivers, especially young ones, and reduce the overall number of crashes. One of these programs is the “Alive At 25” class that targets drivers aged 15-24 providing useful information for making positive driving decisions now and in the future. One Sergeant and two deputies actively teach these classes on a regular basis. For more information on the “Alive At 25” program, please visit the website at aliveat25.us .
The Team also joins forces with the Kootenai County Substance Abuse Council to stage mock DUI crashes at High Schools throughout Kootenai County. Current students participate in the mock scenes, portraying impaired drivers as well as victims; even "fatalities". Some of the students' parents also take part in these events, which are elaborately reenacted. They are designed to be as real as possible, to include the response of law enforcements, Fire Departments with extrication equipment, ambulances and even the MedStar air ambulance. Once the DUI investigation portion of the scenario begins, the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office Traffic Team uses special training aids such as the "Fatal Vision Goggles" the students wear to simulate different level of alcoholic impairment. The addition of goggles that simulate the impairment from marijuana is a hopeful future addition to the program.