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Report: Idaho among riskiest states for Thanksgiving travel

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Staff Writer | November 24, 2021 1:00 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Idaho is one of the riskiest places to travel for Thanksgiving, according to a new report.

Insurance broker QuoteWizard.com recently released its rankings for the most dangerous states for travel this holiday weekend.

Alaska topped the list, with Idaho ranking second — making the Gem State the riskiest Thanksgiving spot in the continental U.S.

North Dakota came in third place.

Meanwhile, New York, Illinois and Connecticut are ranked the safest states for Thanksgiving travel.

QuoteWizard evaluated all 50 states based on 10 different health and safety factors.

COVID-19 case rates, vaccination rates, hospital capacity and the number of accidents, speeding tickets and DUIs were all considered.

Idaho was the second-riskiest state when evaluated on health factors alone but came in sixth when evaluated on driving factors.

Coronavirus concerns

Travel volumes are returning to prepandemic volumes, with more than 53 million people expected to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, according to AAA.

But COVID-19 remains a major concern.

WalletHub released updated rankings this week for the safest states during COVID-19, including the District of Columbia. Idaho came in as the fifth least safe state, ranking 47 overall.

The WalletHub report found that Idaho has one of the highest positive testing rates nationwide between Nov. 3 and Nov. 9, as well one of the highest death rates between Nov. 15 and Nov. 21.

Idaho’s COVID-19 positivity rate fell for the ninth straight week to 7.2% — the lowest in almost four months.

With many of the state’s coronavirus numbers showing signs of improvement, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare deactivated crisis standards of care throughout the state — except in North Idaho.

Panhandle Health District is approaching 700 total deaths attributed to COVID-19.

The death toll was 500 less than two months ago.

Kootenai Health had 60 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, with 27 requiring critical care.

In the month of November, 33 people have died at Kootenai Health due to COVID-19.

QuoteWizard’s analysis is based on states that had the lowest to highest percentages of adults with at least one dose of a vaccine as of Aug. 30.

Idaho lags behind other states when it comes to coronavirus vaccinations, with about half the population having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

About 56% of people age 12 and older are fully vaccinated statewide. In Kootenai County, only about 46% of that population is fully vaccinated.

Since the beginning of the most recent surge, 97% of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 at Kootenai Health are unvaccinated.

Data from IDHW shows the overwhelming majority of people who are dying from COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

Infections among vaccinated people, called breakthrough infections, are rare.

Vaccinated people who contract COVID-19 are likely to experience a much milder case.

Dangerous driving

QuoteWizard’s driving rankings were reportedly based on a state’s rate of accidents, speeding tickets and DUIs.

The Idaho Transportation Department’s Office of Highway Safety reported 98 deaths caused by vehicle crashes on Idaho roadways between Jan. 1 and June 27 of this year.

That’s an increase of 20 deaths from vehicle crashes in Idaho during the same period in 2020.

There were 8,084 DUI arrests statewide in 2019.

Increased traffic and holiday merriment involving alcohol can make for dangerous conditions on the roads. That holds especially true in North Idaho.

Between 2015 and 2017, almost 60% of fatal crashes in Kootenai County were caused by impaired drivers, according to Idaho State Police.

Since 2013, more than half of the fatal crashes in North Idaho have reportedly involved impaired drivers.

Undersheriff elect Brett Nelson said the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office will have emphasis patrols throughout the holiday weekend to watch for impaired and reckless drivers.

Nelson noted that alcohol isn’t the only substance people should avoid if they plan to get behind the wheel.

Marijuana and certain prescription drugs can also impair someone’s ability to drive.

“Do not take the risk of getting behind the wheel (while under the influence),” he said.

Nelson encouraged citizens to report sightings of dangerous or possibly impaired driving to local authorities.

“We can’t be everywhere,” he said. “We rely on citizens to report the activity of possibly dangerous drivers on the roadway.”