Chief Deputy for the Blaine County Sheriff’s Department, Will Fruehling, has been patrolling the streets of the Wood River Valley for over 20 years. Since starting his career as a patrol officer for the Ketchum Police Department in 1995, Fruehling has been a patrol deputy, a Sergeant, Investigator for the Idaho Department of Corrections, and was appointed to his current position in 2017 by Sheriff Harkins. As a local and a police officer, Fruehling has seen plenty of visitors come and go over the years and through the seasons. So we asked him some tips on driving and parking, what his driving pet peeves are, and Fruehling settles the Miscellany II debate between left-lane drivers and right-lane once and for all.
What tips do you have for visitors who haven’t driven in snow before?
Will: “Obviously, the first thing is for people to slow down when the road’s covered in snow or when the road is slick. You see these people who wiz by and then you see them right in front of you at the next stoplight in town and you’re like, they made it at the same time that I did, but they went too fast for these road conditions.”
For those with cars driving around town, would you recommend snow tires/chains?
Will: “It depends what kind of car it is. If you have 4-wheel drive, I’ve never felt the need to have snow tires as long as you have good tires with traction. If I had a smaller car then yes, maybe that or studs on your car might be a good idea. I don’t see a lot of people use chains in Idaho, the state doesn’t require it.”
What should visitors know about parking in general and about parking at night in the winter?
Will: “In general, Ketchum has signed the time limits for parking on the streets with most parking being a two hour limit. Ketchum also has a program for snow removal and from certain dates requires people not to park on the street in certain areas of the downtown core. My advice is to learn what the rules are in regards to parking at night.”
*Cars must be off the streets between Nov. 1 and May 1 between the hours of 2-7am to ensure that snowplows can do their jobs.
What are some good tips for driving around in a small town and navigating pedestrians, especially around the holidays?
Will: “Be patient, be friendly, be kind, let people merge. We have a few areas where the lanes merge, both as you’re leaving Ketchum and coming in. You see a lot of people try to blast up the right lane to get in front of people and then people get stubborn and don’t let people merge and it slows things down even more. Stop fully at stop signs, stop for pedestrians in cross walks. We do have a lot of crosswalks and it always seems to be a problem where people aren’t paying attention or don’t know they need to stop for pedestrians.”
What should drivers know about wildlife on the roads?
Will: “I drive in between Ketchum and Hailey every day and the wildlife crossing is a big one, especially recently. It seems like we have a couple herds of elk that cross kind of in the same place; one area is just north of Hailey in the 45mph zone at night. That area is set at 45mph for that very reason—there’s a lot of elk that cross there as well as a few groups that cross by Ohio Gulch, by East Fork, and just south of hospital. One of the things I see a lot is the elk will be standing right on the side of the road and while it’s prudent to slow way down, people stop and wait for the elk to cross. It’s been my experience—and I’m not a wildlife biologist by any means—that when people stop to encourage the elk to cross, they think those elk are going to act like humans do when you stop for someone to cross. Then traffic stops up and accidents occur where people get rear-ended stopping in the middle of the road.”
“It’s certainly prudent to slow down if you see elk on the side of the road since you never know when they’ll sprint across. Sometimes people call and say the elk are about to cross the road on this part of the highway. It’s good for us to know, but we also don’t go up and serve as a crossing guard because if we pull up, they won’t cross and then people won’t pay attention to the road since they’re looking at what we’re doing. People ask us why we don’t stop on the side of the road with lights on and help the elk cross—because the elk don’t listen to us. If you see wildlife in the road or just near it at night, it’s always good to flash your brights twice at oncoming traffic to let them know there’s something up ahead.”
What are some mistakes you see drivers making here?
Will: “Another pet peeve of mine is the section of road south of Ketchum with the extra lane, what some people call a “passing lane.” There’s signs that say “slower vehicles stay in right lane.” So there’s a lot of people that think that you can’t drive in that left lane, but it is a lane of travel and ITD set that up to help with the flow of traffic. I do hear a lot of people complain that people are driving the speed limit in the left-hand lane… which is perfectly legal. When that first happened, people said you must be a “left-laner.” That’s really not what that lane is for. It’s a lane of travel to help the flow of traffic. They sometimes suspect we’re out there enforcing it when there’s really no state code that requires you to use the right lane in that situation, there is a state law that says vehicles driving slowly are required to turn out in slow vehicle lanes.”
More Tips to Drive Like a Local
- Parking can be confusing; is this two-hour parking? All day? All night? For a complete map of Ketchum and its parking designations, visit the city’s website.
- Ketchum has a three-minute maximum idling ordinance. Fines are $25
- Don’t talk/text and drive. Tickets are $100
- Cars must be off the streets between Nov. 1 and May 1 Between the hours of 2-7am to ensure that snowplows can do their jobs. Tickets are $50 and your vehicle will be towed if not left in a designated overnight parking area.
- *Even if it isn’t forecasted to snow you still can’t park there!
- *Yeah we know it doesn’t snow all that much in late April, but that is when the street sweeper does a thorough spring cleaning.
In conclusion, just slow down, pay attention, and relax in this wonderful place that isn’t the I-5 or Lincoln Tunnel.