On a snowy morning in February, 10-year old Brecken Beard died in a multi-car crash on Highway 93. Investigators later charged the boy’s mother with vehicular homicide while under the influence. It is not the first time we’ve told you about death on our highways - and sadly it won’t be the last.
But maybe it’s time that Montanans start another conversation about our state drunk driving laws, and whether they are tough enough to keep our highways safe - Daniel Beard certainly hopes so. He loved spending time with his oldest son Brecken, capturing those special father and son moments on his cell phone shooting hoops on a warm Montana day. Most of us have videos just like this on our phones – they are moments that are never guaranteed.
“I was at work and I got a call from an unknown number, And the lady on the line said there’s been a crash and I need you to get down here, I have your two kids in the car, Daniel Beard recalled. “And I knew right away that there was a problem. because I have three. And I had just asked her I have three kids, where’s the other? Where's Brecken? And she said you just need to get down here."
Brecken died in a car crash on US Highway 93 outside of Lolo on February 15. The circumstances of what happened that morning is a story for later.
This is the story of a child who didn’t get to grow up but a child who deserves to be known as more than just another statistic in a state where crosses dot the sides of our highways. More than just a mention on the news, losing Brecken is a loss for all of us. Most of the pictures and video Daniel sent MTN News from the story involves Brecken and basketball -- a boy with a big smile; and it turns out a big heart. “He was talented, smart, and knew it. But also was kind enough to put all of that down and not focus on that,” Daniel said. “He was a friend to kids who didn’t have friends.”
Whether making music with siblings Silas and Amita or goofing off in the backyard, Brecken was one of those kids when he smiled, you’d just smile right back.
We asked his dad what Brecken would have been when he grew up. “We've talked about it, and it’s either NBA player, NFL player, or sports talk radio. He could listen to any of the sports radio guys and have a conversation along with it. I think sports journalism or journalism overall,” Daniel said.
Brecken was into music, learning to play the guitar like his dad. He was a boy that Daniel says was on the cusp of becoming a young man, who in his short time on earth, led by example and left a lasting impression on his siblings.
“He taught them so much in just the day-to-day moments of life they did not realize that but as time goes on, they will remember moments with him; I do this because Brecken taught me,” Daniel concluded.
That is just one case going through the courts now, but the bigger picture is that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s data from 2018 puts Montana number one in the country when it comes to drunk driving deaths.
When we're not number one, we’re consistently in the top five. So. When does this become something we’d like to change? Since the Montana Legislature is currently in session, Daniel and his family are now working with state Representative Sharon Greef of Florence to write up legislation to toughen up the penalties. State Representative Bill Mercer also has legislation that could be voted on this week but the last time he proposed it, the governor vetoed it.
But aside from what government can do, what about our own personal responsibility in Montana when it comes to drinking and driving? We will be talking about that to try to get some answers in the weeks ahead.