If you’ve been injured in a car accident in the State of Idaho, you may have questions about how the laws will affect your property damage and/or personal injury claim. In this article, we’ll review the laws most commonly associated with car accidents. To read the entirety of each law, click the link to the specific State of Idaho statutes in each section.
Here are the Idaho car accident and traffic laws we’ll cover:
Pedestrians and Crosswalks
The driver of a vehicle must stop and yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk.
Restrictions on Pedestrians Crossing Roadways
No pedestrian must suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.
Pedestrian Control Signals
Whenever special pedestrian control signals, exhibiting the words Walk or Don’t Walk or Wait are in place such signals shall indicate as follows:
- Walk or Walking Person. Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal and shall be given the right of way by the drivers of all vehicles.
- Don’t Walk or Wait. No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of such signal, whether flashing or steady. Any pedestrian who has partially completed the pedestrian’s crossing on the Walk signal shall complete the crossing to a sidewalk or safety island while the Don’t Walk or Wait signal is showing.
Crossing at Other Than Crosswalks
Pedestrians intending to cross a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the roadway.
Pedestrians on Roadway
Where sidewalks are provided, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon adjacent roadway, bicycle lane, or bicycle path.
Where sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians are permitted to walk only on or along the left side of the roadway or on it’s shoulder facing traffic from the opposite direction.
Pedestrians’ Right of Way on Sidewalks
The driver of a vehicle emerging from or entering an alley, building, private road, or driveway shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian approaching on any sidewalk extending across the alley, building entrance, road, or driveway.
Drivers to Exercise Due Care
The driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the driver’s horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused, incapacitated, or intoxicated person.
Pedestrians Under the Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance
No pedestrian who is under the influence of alcohol or any drug to a degree which renders him a hazard is permitted to walk or be on a roadway.
Obedience to Traffic Control Devices
A driver must obey any traffic control devices applicable to the driver, unless directed by a traffic or police officer.
Driving on Right Side of Roadway
Drivers must drive in the right lane of roadways with the following exceptions:
- When passing another driver in the same direction
- When there is an obstruction in the right lane
- Upon a roadway restricted to one way traffic
- Upon a roadway with three marked lanes for traffic
Passing On the Left
Driver proceeding in the same direction must pass to the left at at a safe distance and shall remain in the passing lane until it is safe to return to the right lane. Drivers being passed must not increase the speed of their vehicle until their vehicle is completely passed by the overtaking car.
Limitations on Overtaking on the Left
Drivers may drive to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle only if the left side is clearly visible and the overtaking vehicle can return to its lane without coming within two hundred feet of oncoming traffic.
Passing On the Right
Drivers may pass on the right under the following conditions:
- When the driver about to be passed is about to make a left turn. However, the driver attempting to pass on the right must not do so without driving off the pavement of main-traveled portion of the roadway.
- When the roadway has two (2) or more lanes of traffic moving in the same direction.
Following Too Closely
A driver must not follow another driver more closely than is “reasonable and prudent”, having due regard for the speed of other drivers and traffic conditions along the roadway. A driver who is towing another vehicle must leave sufficient space ahead of their vehicle to allow an overtaking vehicle to enter and occupy this space without danger.
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices
Drivers must not drive while using a handheld mobile electronic device to read, write, or send a text message.
Drivers and Intersections
When two (2) drivers approach an intersection at approximately the same time the driver on the left must yield to the driver to their right.
Drivers Intending to Turn Left at Intersections
A driver who intends to turn left at an intersection, or into an alley, private road or driveway must yield the right of way to drivers approaching from the opposite direction.
Drivers Entering or Crossing a Roadway
A driver about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway must yield the right of way to all other vehicles on the roadway to be crossed.
Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.
All motorcyclists under 18 years of age must wear helmets while riding on roadways.
Motorcycles and Headlights
From sunset to sunrise and any other when there is insufficient light, every motorcycle riding on a roadway must have at least one and not more than two lighted headlights.
Driving Offenses and Accident Requirements
A driver who drives carelessly and heedlessly without regard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving, and can be fined and imprisoned.
Alcohol and Minors
A driver under the age of twenty one (21) must not drive upon any roadway if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.02% or higher.
Driver’s Duty to Give Information and Render Aid
A driver involved in an accident must remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has given to persons involved with the accident their name, address, and if available, exhibited their driver’s license information, proof of registration and certificate or proof of liability insurance.
Accidents Involving Death, Personal Injury, or Substantial Bodily Injury
A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death must immediately by the quickest means of communication give notice to the nearest police office. If the driver is physically unable to give immediate notice and there is another occupant in the car, the other occupant must immediately by the quickest means of communication give notice to the nearest police office.
Accidents Involving Only Damage to Another Car
A driver involved in an accident resulting only in damage to a car which is driven or attended by any person must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has given to persons involved with the accident their name, address, and if available, exhibited their driver’s license information, proof of registration and certificate or proof of liability insurance.
Accidents Involving Damage to Unattended Car
A driver who collides with a parked car which is unattended must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must attempt to locate and notify the driver or owner of the damaged car.
Once located, the driver who caused the accident must give the name and address of the driver and owner of the vehicle that caused the accident.
If the driver or owner of the damaged car cannot be located, the driver who caused the accident must attach a written note to the damaged car in a conspicuous place giving the name and, address of the driver and owner and the circumstances that led to the accident.
Driver’s Duty to Notify Police Department
A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury, death, or total damage to the property of any one person resulting in $1500 or more must immediately by the quickest means of communication give notice to the nearest police office. If the driver is physically unable to give immediate notice and there is another occupant in the car, the other occupant must immediately by the quickest means of communication give notice to the nearest police office.
Accident Reports Filed By Police Departments
Every law enforcement officer who investigates a motor vehicle accident must forward a written report of the accident to the department within 24 hours after completing the investigation.
Accident Report Forms
The department must prepare and upon request supply to police departments, coroners, sheriffs, garages, and other suitable agencies or individuals, forms for written accident reports.
Written reports must call for sufficiently detailed information about the cause, conditions then existing, and the persons and vehicles involved in an accident.
Open Alcohol Container Law
A driver or passenger must not be in possession of an opened container of an alcoholic beverage or consume a controlled substance while the car is traveling on Idaho roadways. An opened alcoholic beverage container can be kept only in the trunk of a vehicle or behind the rearmost upright seat of the vehicle (if the vehicle does not have a trunk). It cannot be kept in the utility or glove compartment.
Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance
A driver must not drive after drinking an alcoholic beverage or consuming an intoxicant in an amount which renders the driver incapable of driving safely along roadways. In Idaho, a driver is guilty of the offense of Operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher.
Ignition Interlock Device
A driver who is guilty of driving while under the influence of an intoxicant might be ordered to have installed at his or her own expenses an ignition interlock device. The ignition interlock device will serve to restore the driver’s driving privileges during the pendency of the driver’s probation. If an ignition device is installed, it must be installed in every car owned or operated by the driver.
An ignition interlock is a device which measures any amount of alcohol contained in a driver’s body. Before starting the car the driver must blow into a tube emanating from the ignition interlock device. If the device then detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than is permitted by law the car will not start and the violation will be reported to the prosecutor, the probation officer, and/or the judge. At that point the driver may be subject to loss of driving privileges, immediate arrest and incarceration up to the maximum term provided by law.
Idaho Dram Shop Law
Idaho has a modified Dram Shop Law. Dram Shop Law refers to the liability of private social hosts, bars, hotels nightclubs and other commercial establishments who serve alcohol to patrons or to minors for injuries intoxicated patrons or minors cause to third parties such as in car accidents.
A private social host is the host at a private party, such as a wedding reception, a corporate sponsored event, a gathering of friends at a private residence, where alcohol is served not for profit.
Under Idaho law, a social host or a commercial establishment is liable for the personal injuries or property damage caused by an intoxicated person if they knowingly served alcohol to a minor or an obviously intoxicated person.
Financial Responsibility Car Insurance Minimum Limits
In the State of Idaho, each motor vehicle must be covered by an insurance policy that includes liability coverage of the following amounts for all damages resulting from an accident:
- At least $25,000 per person
- At least $50,000 for two or more people
- $15,000 per occurrence for property damage
Idaho Insurance Information
For information about insurance requirements, see the Idaho Department of Insurance website.
Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)
In Idaho, the victim in a car accident can sue the negligent driver for compensation. The victim’s liability in causing the accident, their comparative negligence, affects the amount of compensation the victim receives.
If the victim contributed less than 51% of the negligence that caused the accident, then their compensation is reduced by the amount they contributed to the accident. If the victim contributed 51% or more of the negligence that caused the accident, then the victim is barred from receiving any compensation.
Example of Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)
One morning, Jackson was driving north on his way to work. At an intersection, he pulled into the left turn lane. At the same time, Melanie approached the intersection from the opposite direction. Suddenly, Jackson turned left into Melanie’s lane and their cars collided.
Melanie sustained serious brain injuries and damage to her car, totalling in $100,000 dollars worth of damages.
After their investigation, the police determined that Jackson had failed to yield according to traffic laws. A pedestrian witness told police he saw Melanie texting at the time Jackson’s car crashed into Melanie’s. As a result, the police issued Melanie a citation for using a mobile device while driving.
Melanie sued Jackson for $100,000 and claimed he was 100% at fault for the accident because he did not yield to her right-of-way. At trial, the jury found Jackson liable for failing to yield the right-of-way. However, the jury also found Melissa liable for using a mobile device while driving and partially responsible for the accident.
The verdict stated Jackson’s negligence equaled 70% of the accident, and Melanie’s equaled 30%. The jury awarded Melanie only $70,000 dollars.
In the event the jury had found Jackson’s negligence equaled 49% of the accident, and Melanie’s equaled 51%, the jury would be barred by law from awarding Melanie any compensation for the damages.
Comparative Negligence: Section 6-801
Right of Way: Section 49-641
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices: Section 49-1401A
Idaho’s Fault-based Car Insurance
In Idaho, the law requires car owners to purchase liability insurance. In the event of a car accident, the at-fault driver is liable for the personal injuries and property damages caused. Victims of car accidents can file a claim with the insurance company of the at-fault driver or file a lawsuit against the at-fault-driver.
For information about filing auto insurance claims in Idaho, see the Idaho Department of Insurance website.
Statute of Limitations
Idaho has a two (2) year statute of limitations for property damage and personal injury claims. This means if a driver, passenger, or passerby is injured or sustains property damage at the hands of a negligent driver, the victim must either settle their claim within two (2) years, or file a lawsuit. If the victim fails to settle their claim or file a lawsuit within the two (2) year period the victim is barred from pursuing the negligent driver in court.
Small Claims Courts
In Idaho, victims of car accidents can choose to sue the negligent driver in small claims court. The jurisdiction of a small claims court regarding personal injury and property damage is limited to a maximum of $4,000, exclusive of filing fees and court costs.
To submit a claim in small claims court, visit the Idaho State Judiciary website.
Idaho Government Tort Claims – Sovereign Immunity
In Idaho, it is possible to submit a claim against a governmental agency or its employees for personal injury or property damage as a result of negligence on the part of the governmental agency or its employees. The claim must refer to an lawful action on the part of the governmental agency or employee performed in the scope of their duties.
If the injury or property damage occurred as a result of an unlawful action, then the claimant can sue only the person(s) who caused injury or property damage individually. The governmental agency would not be liable.
If Melissa, an engineer with the Boise Planning Department, ran a red light on her way to a worksite and caused an accident, then the City of Boise would be liable for the property damage and personal injuries caused her.
If Melissa stopped for a few drinks and became intoxicated before heading to a worksite and causing an accident, then the City of Boise can claim sovereign immunity. Melissa performed an unlawful act and was not acting in the scope of her duties when she became intoxicated on her way to the worksite.
To seek compensation for damages, injured parties would have to sue Melissa personally. The determination of whether or not Melissa was acting within the scope of her duties would have to be decided during a trial.
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