HELENA — Montana is in the midst of the 100 deadliest days on state roads - that is what Montana Highway Patrol calls the days between Memorial Day and Labor Day. While more crashes and fatalities usually occur during this time, law enforcement is noticing some recent and concerning trends.
So far this year, there have been 124 deadly crashes on Montana roads - a nearly 30% increase from the same time period in the past two years. The number of deaths is up, too - 136 people have died on Montana roads, which is 20 percent more than this time in 2019 and 2020.
Montana Highway Patrol public information officer Sgt. Jay Nelson said even one death is too many.
“Some of the things we see are things that would be in your worst nightmare,” Nelson said.
While the number of crashes and deaths is up, so are some concerning behaviors on the road. “Alcohol use, huge increase in that, over 100% from the last two years,” Nelson said.
Nelson said troopers have also seen more speeding-related crashes and deaths. He noted alcohol use and speed tend to go hand-in-hand.
There are ways to prevent more fatal crashes on the roads: don’t drink and drive, watch your speed, and use a seatbelt. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), using a seatbelt reduces serious crash-related injuries and death by about 50%.
“I’ve said it my whole career for 23 years - it’s the cheapest life insurance you’ll ever purchase,” Nelson said. “I know peoples' freedoms, they can do what they want, but just putting on that seatbelt is the easiest thing you can do to prevent a fatality collision.”
Nelson said it is also helpful when drivers call in dangerous behavior on the road. Information like car color, make and model, plate number and location on the highway can help law enforcement locate the dangerous driver.
Never put yourself in danger to make a call. Nelson said to get somewhere safe, and then dial the incident in, it’s a step that could help prevent a fatal crash.