BOISE -- Idaho State Police say most drivers aren't aware of how many crashes happen every year and how many people are dying on Idaho's roadways. KTVB looked through the numbers to find out just how many there are.
ITD tracks crashes throughout our state based on reports by police officers who respond. The department gave KTVB five years of data about Interstate 84, from the Oregon state line to past Twin Falls so we could find out where the most severe crashes occur.
"I just think sometimes we're naive about how many crashes and how many people die on our highways every year," ISP Corporal Fred Rice said.
Between milepost 0 and 200, there were more than 400 serious injury or fatal crashes on I-84 between 2007 and 2011. 87 people died, and 774 people were seriously injured.
"These are preventable. Crashes are preventable," Rice said.
"It stems down to one thing," said Rice. "The operator behind the wheel is what causes our crashes out here."
With ITD's data, KTVB determined the top ten one-mile stretches where the most accidents happen between Oregon and Twin Falls.
Six of the top 10 crash spots are in Canyon County, where in 11 miles (between milepost 28 and 39), there were 57 serious crashes, with 7 deaths.
In Ada County, the mile near the connector is another serious crash spot. The numbers dip for more than 20 miles before the Elmore County line, where there were seven serious crashes in the five year time span KTVB analyzed.
Moving much farther east is another high crash and deadly strip. Two of the top ten high crash mile stretches are within the 23 mile stretch surrounding Glenns Ferry. It's also the most deadly KTVB analyzed, with 19 deaths in five years.
"I'm not surprised at all," Rice said.
KTVB looked at more specifics with the crashes and contributing factors. Perhaps surprisingly, most crashes in our target group happened during the day, with clear weather and dry roadways. Many of the fatal crashes were single-car rollovers where drivers or passengers were ejected. In the more urban areas, many were listed as inattentive driving crashes.
"Caldwell area where we neck down from three lanes to two lanes, a lot of movement's happening," Rice said. "Out on the rural interstate, you'll find out it happens in daytime, where people have been driving for a long time, get drowsy and run off the road and overturn."
The one-mile stretches with the highest number of serious or fatal accidents are (in order from west to east): 29, 34, 35, 37, 38, 39, 49, 70,114 and 129.
In the five years of data analyzed (2007-2011), 2007 had the most serious crashes, and 2011 had the least. Rich said 2013 is poised to be a higher crash year based on the first month's data collected.
KTVB also went over findings with the person at ITD who helped put together the raw data for us.
"My job is to analyze the traffic crash statistics from a driver behavior perspective," said ITD's research analyst principal, Steve Rich.
While the recent data is dramatic, Rich says his data going back as early as 1987 shows things are actually a bit better than some previous times in Idaho's history.
"Certainly recently, there's been less fatalities the last three years," Rich said.
In order, ITD data shows the top five causes of crashes on the interstate are: Inattentive driving, speeding, overcorrecting, drowsy-driving, and alcohol impairment.
KTVB wondered what the state is doing about the crashes and prevention efforts. We found the Office of Highway Safety also uses the numbers.
"The data is there. It's not going to lie, and we can't argue with the data, so really it's a help to everybody," said Lisa Losness, a grants contract officer with OHS.
Losness says data drives priorities on infrastructure changes, education, and increased police patrols you may see during the year. Even messages on highway signs are tailored to educate based on known problems. That's why impaired driving messages may appear near holidays, for example.
"We take that information, and we use it to decide where we want to put the federal funds for our programs that we're going to be doing for the next fiscal year," Losness said.
Police say, ultimately, the mistakes drivers make cost lives, and paying attention to the data should encourage every driver to pay attention on the road.
"Whether you're out in a rural area or in a big city with all the traffic, put your mind on what you're doing," said Cpl. Rice. "Take care of what's right in front of you, and that's driving that automobile."
In addition to the interstate, we also looked at the state's data on accident-prone non-freeway roads. Eagle and Fairview in Meridian has had the most crashes in recent years. But by far, the place with the most damaging and harmful crashes is in Caldwell, at Homedale Road and Indiana Avenue.
Here are the 10 intersections in the state with the most crashes between 2009 and 2011: Eagle and Fairview in Meridian (171), Alameda and Yellowstone in Pocatello (124), Cole and Fairview in Boise (121), Cole and Overland in Boise (117), 17th Street and Hitt in Idaho Falls (110), Eagle and Franklin in Meridian (108), Karcher and Nampa-Caldwell Boulevard in Nampa (105), Chinden and Eagle in Boise (95), Fairview and Milwaukee in Boise (89), and Garrity and I-84 38 EB Off Ramp in Nampa (81).