Sheriff calls recognition bittersweet in light of recent deaths
On the heels of two recent highway deaths, Teton County Sheriff Tony Liford said receiving the Idaho Transportation Department’s Zero Fatality award on Sept. 13 would be, “bittersweet.”
Every year ITD recognizes counties who have logged zero fatalities by honoring local and state patrol. This is the fourth time Teton County will receive the award under Liford’s tenure. Clark County was the only other county to receive the distinction for 2017 as well.
Idaho State Police Lieutenant Chris Weadick said the honor does come at an unfortunate time for Teton County, which has experienced two deaths on Highway 33 and Highway 31, both involving motorcyclist who were not wearing helmets. Weadick said the top three contributors to highway fatalities are distracted driving, inattentive driving, and aggressive driving.
Liford agreed, but criticized Idaho state policy makers for not taking these issues more seriously.
“Legislators are letting the people of Idaho down by not making these a more serious issue,” said Liford who further criticized the state’s penalties for these infractions as well as its inability to pass “hand-free device” laws.”
According to the ITD, 64 Idahoans died in crashes caused by misuse of electronic devices in 2016, a figure cited by the state legislature after a failed attempt to pass a hands-free device law earlier this year.
Liford said patrolling for distracted drivers who are texting or surfing on their phones is difficult in Teton County given the single lane road configuration as compared to patrolling for distracted drivers on a highway such as I-15. He said Idaho is ignoring the national conversation on hands-free driving and the dangers of texting and driving.