In Idaho, you must be ready to face various road conditions.
There are instances when you’ll have to drive through fog, rain, and snow. All these make riskier roads, so you’ll have to up your safe driving game.
Sometimes, you have to contend with the terrain and its elements — leaving the flat stretch behind and navigating your way through the mountains.
As we said…
So many Idaho road conditions.
Don’t worry — we’ve got you!
Here, we’re going to give you safe driving tips for the most common road conditions you’ll encounter in the state.
Are you ready?
Tips on How to Drive Safely in Idaho Road Conditions
From small woodland creatures to flash floods, drivers in Idaho need to be ready for anything — including you!
We’ve gathered the information you need to tackle potentially challenging driving situations:
- In the mountains
- In wildlife
- At night
- During winter
- With fog, smoke, dust
- In the rain
- With flood
Let’s go through the safe driving tips for each of these.
Driving on a flat road versus a mountainous one is significantly different. Here, you’re likely to pass steep hills, blind curves, and winding roads. All these put you at more risk.
Fortunately, there are ways to get through them safely.
- Be More Mindful About Road Signs
Speed limits tend to change in mountainous locations, so it’s best to watch out for signs indicating how fast you can go. You may also see other signs that warn you of potential hazards along the way.
Passing can be dangerous when you’re driving on the mountainside. A solid yellow in your lane means you’re not allowed to overtake. So, even if the car in front of you travels slowly, don’t pass until it is safe to do so.
- Be Extra Careful Around Curves
If you see a sign indicating road curves, prepare to sound your horn as you approach. It applies whether or not it’s a blind curve. The sound warns other vehicles of your presence even if they can’t see you yet.
To be safe, keep to the right side edge of the road because it keeps you farther away from oncoming traffic. It’s helpful to have more space between you and a car that suddenly appears around the bend.
- Remember, Gravity Is Not Your Friend
It’s tempting to put your vehicle on neutral when on a downward slope and allow it to coast down. However, you’re likely to go faster as you gain momentum, which could lead to an accident.
Instead, shift to a lower gear or hill ascend when driving downhill. It’ll help you control your car better.
As if navigating slopes and blind curves aren’t complicated enough, you may encounter a different kind of challenge while driving in Idaho — animals.
And we’re not talking about grazing cows (but we will, in a bit). Don’t be surprised if you run into deer, moose, or elk on the road.
If so, here are some safety tips to follow:
- It’s best to slow down if you find yourself in this situation. These animals typically travel in herds, so others are likely nearby. Be careful — they’re capable of damaging your vehicle, too.
- Sometimes, you’ll spot small animals on the road. We don’t mean to sound harsh, but you should prioritize your safety in these cases. Only attempt to dodge them if it doesn’t put you in harm’s way.
- Regardless of their size, animals tend to suddenly get in a vehicle’s way. You won’t have a chance to slow down before hitting them. If so, your first attention should be controlling your car, before the animal or damage to your vehicle.
Besides animals from the wild, you’ll also run into livestock in Idaho. These include cows, sheep, goats, and even horses. When you encounter them, yield — yes, they have the right of way.
Most areas outside city limits permit livestock to roam in open range, so you may have to share the road with a herd. Farmers have a good idea of what to do, so work with them to ensure your safety.
Expect to encounter livestock even if there are fences in the area. You must also be more careful at night because it’s harder to spot them.
Remember, if you hit livestock, causing injury or death, you may be held liable for it. Unfortunately, the same doesn’t go for any damage your vehicle sustains — animal owners aren’t responsible for it if it happens in open range.
We’ve touched on night driving a bit in the previous section, so let’s explore this further.
As you probably know, there are several hazards when you’re on the road after sunset. These include vision-related risks (reduced visibility and impaired vision) and driver behavior-related risks (drunk, distracted, and drowsy driving).
In fact, MoneyGeek’s study puts 50% of traffic-related fatalities happening at night, even with fewer vehicles on the road.
Let’s do our part to keep this figure from increasing by practicing the following when night driving:
- Maintain your vehicle. Ensure your windshield and windows are thoroughly clean. The same goes for your headlights. Otherwise, you might end up with dim and distorted lights.
- Keep ample distance. Put enough space between you and the car in front of you. Tailgating is never okay, but more so at night.
- Don’t be in a hurry. If you need to pass another vehicle, take your time and make sure you allow more distance.
- Use your headlights. Your parking lights do not provide enough visibility.
- Be observant. You may be sharing the road with slow-moving vehicles or those that don’t have lights. And these aren’t limited to cars — there might be bicyclists, animals, or pedestrians, too.
- Be in the right state — mentally and physically. Don’t drive if you’re tired or sleepy. It’s better to rest first and get behind the wheel when ready. NEVER drive when you’re drunk, it’s better to get a taxi than risk the dangers.
- Look to the right when flashed with a high beam. The high beam of an approaching vehicle can blind you. If they do not turn it off, it’s best to focus your eyes on the lower right side of your lane until it goes away.
- Use a low beam when you see a vehicle coming from the opposite direction. Just as you don’t want to be flashed with a high beam, you don’t want to do it to other vehicles, too.
Between November and February, Idaho’s streets are likely underneath a layer of snow. It makes driving riskier and requires different skills (and, sometimes, gear).
Here are some tips for winter driving.
- Keep Your Vehicle in Good Condition
Having any of your car’s systems malfunction during winter is a recipe for disaster. So always check your lights, brakes, defroster, and radiator before driving out of your garage.
It’s also best to keep your windows clear. The temperature causes them to frost, preventing you from seeing the street. Don’t forget to use a non-freezing solution in your windshield washer reservoir.
If your route takes you through slippery roads, use tire chains. Idaho allows motorists to use these from October 1st to April 30th, but the dates may change because of weather conditions.
- Adjust Your Driving Behavior
There are several things you usually do that you should avoid when driving in winter. For example, don’t use cruise control — you must be in control of your vehicle at all times.
Test your car’s response when you steer or brake, but make sure to do it in a safe area. Don’t forget to wear your seatbelts.
If you need to stop, slamming on the brakes is a bad idea. That’s more likely to result in a skid than anything else.
- Be Mindful of Specific Areas
Watch out for places where ice forms faster, such as overpasses, bridges, and shady spots. Even if the rest of the road is dry, you may still skid on these parts.
Fog, Smoke, and Dust Driving
The difficulty with these three is that it reduces your visibility significantly.
The best thing to do is not drive in these conditions. But if you must, always travel at a reduced speed.
Slow down further if you can see red taillights in front of you. It indicates that there are vehicles nearby. They may have slowed down as well or stopped entirely.
Don’t hesitate to turn and use your headlights if you can no longer see further than 500 feet. However, use low beams as this is better at cutting through the fog or smoke.
In worst-case scenarios, pull off the road. It’s safer to stay put than take your chances on the road. That said, make sure you are in a spot that doesn’t take other vehicles by surprise.
Rain presents similar hazards to snow and ice. You’re more likely to skid and lose control if you move too fast.
Surprisingly, roads are more dangerous in light rain than in heavy downpours. This is because the water mixes with the oil on the pavement and creates a film, preventing your tires from gripping the road.
In these situations, hydroplaning may happen. To avoid it, ensure your tires are in good condition and have the correct air pressure. And, of course, slowing down is always a good idea when the road is wet.
However, sometimes, you can’t avoid hydroplaning. If so, do not step on the brakes suddenly.
Instead, take your foot off the gas and keep moving in a straight line. It might be tempting to try and turn your vehicle in a counter direction, but it’s best to wait until your tires grip the road again.
Last, watch out for flash floods, which typically happen after a thunderstorm.
When the water level rises to 2 feet, it can wash away vehicles if it’s fast-moving. It’s also high enough to reach your vehicle’s undercarriage, which may cause it to stall.
And that’s just 2 feet — in Idaho, a small stream can swell up and become 80 feet wide and 12 feet deep in about 5 minutes. That doesn’t give you much time, so sometimes, it’s best to avoid flooded areas altogether.
If you’re already out and the National Weather Service releases a warning, look for higher ground. Canyons, dry creek beds, and areas near streams and rivers may be dangerous.
Do not, in any circumstance, attempt to cross an area that’s already flooded.
Wrapping Things Up
That were your safety tips for the Idaho road conditions.
Following these tips will help you be the best and safest driver through the various road conditions you will encounter.
Also, knowing how to navigate through different road conditions can make or break your driving experience in Idaho.
So, keep these in mind and stay safe!