Welcome to Boise and Beyond’s blog series focusing on living like a local in Idaho. If you are one of the many who have recently relocated to Boise and the Treasure Valley here are some of the best ways to fit in and acclimate to your new home.
Drive Like a Local in Boise
One of the first things newcomers notice when visiting or moving to Boise and the surrounding Treasure Valley is the ease of getting around town in a vehicle. Boise, compared to most neighboring capital cities has relatively little traffic, and the locals pride themselves on being courteous drivers in general. However, there are a few things that those new to the area should keep in mind before getting behind the wheel in Boise or any of the neighboring cities around Idaho. Here are the top 5 ways to drive like you’re from Boise:
This is one of the first things I noticed when moving here from the hustle and bustle of bigger cities. We moved here from Paris, France in overcrowded road conditions, where horn honking, shouting, and waving angrily at other drivers and aggressive, fast, weaving driving is the only way to survive. I spent years driving in Southern California and Dallas, TX where getting flipped off, honked at, and risking your life every time you merge onto the freeway is part of the daily commute. My blood pressure immediately dropped when I started driving in Boise. In Idaho, and even more specifically Boise locals pride themselves on following the rules of the road and looking out for fellow drivers. You can almost always recognize someone who grew up in Idaho versus someone who just arrived by how they drive and here’s how:
- Allow Merging. A local custom in Idaho is to slow down to allow other drivers to merge into their lane if requested with a turn signal. And speaking of turn signals, locals will almost always use their turn signals to alert another driver of their intentions on the road.
- Leave a Gap. A local will almost always leave a gap so that drivers entering the roadway from a parking lot or shopping center can easily merge into traffic.
- Don’t Honk. Have you ever been distracted at a red traffic light and missed it turning green? If the car behind you didn’t honk, it’s most likely because they are from here, and realize we all get distracted from time to time.
- Drive the Speed Limit. This is tough because when you’re in a hurry and come from a city where fast driving is the norm, driving the speed limit can take some getting used to. Locals tend to drive the speed limit, and occasionally a few MPH under, but only a couple of years ago Boise was listed as having the safest drivers by Allstate Insurance City Rankings. In reality, driving 10 MPH faster than the speed limit in/around Boise over 20 miles saves the driver about 7 seconds.
The Stop Law
A few things in Idaho regarding traffic laws for stopping are a bit unusual compared to neighboring states. Miscommunication and potential accidents can occur if all drivers aren’t aware of the standards that the locals tend to know. Here are a few to be aware of when making a stop in Idaho:
- Turning Left On Red. Yes, you can turn left on a red light in certain situations, here is the actual driving rule regarding left on a red light: “Except when a sign is in place prohibiting a turn, a driver after stopping, facing a steady circular red signal, may turn right, or turn left from a highway onto a one-way highway after stopping.”
- Cyclists Have Different Stopping Rules. Bicyclists are permitted to regard stop signs as yield signs and a red light is equivalent to a stop sign. So, if you see a cyclist cruising through an intersection with a stop sign, they are allowed, as long as the intersection is clear and they clear the intersection prior to passing any other vehicles, etc. When it comes to red lights, however, they can pass when it’s clear to do so.
- School Bus Stops. Common sense and the law are one when it comes to passing a school bus when its stop sign is activated, DONT! However, Idaho law does not require a driver to stop for a school bus if they are on the opposite side of the road with four or more lanes. Stopping applies to motorists traveling in the same direction as the school bus, regardless of the number of lanes.
- Yellow Stop Lights. In Idaho, they have a law called the Permissive Yellow Light. This allows motorists to pass through an intersection when it is yellow, but the catch is they must be more than halfway through the intersection before the light turns red, otherwise, a citation could be issued. Most locals tend to avoid the risk, and will almost always stop at a yellow light or arrow, even if the law allows them to pass through.
Driving in snowy and icy conditions is not a daily occurrence in the Treasure Valley during the winter, but over the years Boise has been getting more and more of these storms which can impact driving in this area. Most of the locals grew up in The Treasure Valley or in another city in Idaho and are familiar with winter driving conditions. If you arrived from a warmer state, then here are a few things you can do to drive safely and confidently just like a local in Boise in winter:
- Defrost Those Windows. That may seem pretty obvious, but if you’ve never driven when it’s below freezing you may be surprised how quickly the windshield and windows can fog up. Once out on the road is not the time to start defrosting. Don’t start driving until the windows are defrosted and clean – even if you’re not going that far. It’s a good idea to keep your windshield washer reservoir filled with a non-freezing solution all winter, and if you park outside make sure to scrape off any snow or ice that may have built up overnight and then start the defrost setting before heading out.
- Slow Down. After fresh snow or due to icy roads can be slippery. As long as you drive slowly and slow down your car at least three times sooner than you normally do when turning or stopping you should avoid slipping and sliding. When stopping, avoid making sudden movements with the steering wheel, and gently pump the brake as you come to a stop.
- Watch for Ice. Take extra precautions in areas that could potentially be icy, such as bridges and overpasses. Ice may remain in those spots longer since they are exposed underneath and don’t have ground warmth.
- Be Aware of Snowplow Trucks. Use extra caution when encountering snow removal equipment; snowplow blades force snow up and off the road, potentially causing blizzard-like conditions and reduced visibility for drivers following too closely. It’s recommended to remain two car lengths behind snowplow trucks for every 10 mph you drive. Sand being spread by trucks can damage your vehicle, so don’t pass one of these vehicles unless absolutely necessary.
Now that you have your “Famous Potatoe” plates and your Idaho Driver’s License take a deep breath, relax and enjoy driving like you’re from Boise in one of the US’s most enjoyable places to drive. Want to discover more about Boise and the Treasure Valley? Download the Boise Relocation Guide and discover Boise from the local’s point of view.
Make sure to follow me, Jennifer Louis, Boise Metro Real Estate Expert, and local relocation guide on Instagram, Facebook, or my blog for fun facts about Boise and of course a few things real estate. (208) 509-9122 or firstname.lastname@example.org.