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MT Traffic Fatalities Outpacing Last Year

Montana Department of Transportation

The Montana Department of Transportation reports that traffic fatalities are outpacing this same period last year. That’s even before the start to the traditional summer driving season which begins with the Memorial Day weekend.

MDT Director Mike Tooley says as of May 16, 2016, 61 people, or 19 ahead of the same period last year, have lost their lives in vehicle crashes in Montana.

  • Total vehicle fatalities 2015: 224
  • Total vehicle fatalities 2014: 192

Tooley says it’s unacceptable for one more person to die on Montana roads, especially when most of these deaths are preventable. He says that's why Montana is Park of the "Vision Zero" campaign.

“In my previous occupation as a Highway Patrol officer I’ve seen the results of traffic crashes,” Tooley says. “I don’t call them accidents because I never saw a traffic accident. I saw a lot of crashes where people if they had just done something different would be here today.”

The former Chief of the Montana Highway Patrol says doing something different is pretty simple.

“If people will drive within the limits, if they’ll drive sober, and they’ll buckle up their chances of surviving this summer are much higher,” he says.

He notes in the winter motorists tend to slow down, buckle up, and be more careful. Tooley says when the roads are good, people taking driving for granted.

“Familiarity breeds contempt,” he says.

Summer also brings out motorcyclists. Tooley reminds those in cars and trucks to pay attention and be on the look-out for cyclists.

“Also on the motorcyclist side, please wear a helmet,” he says.

Highway traffic safety officials often refer to Summer as the “100 deadliest days.” During peak travel periods throughout the summer, law enforcement will participate in concentrated traffic enforcement.

Around the Memorial Day Weekend, motorists can expect extra patrols. Montana Highway Patrol and local law enforcement agencies will get MDT funding through the Selective Traffic Enforcement Program. Dollars for STEP come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Currently, heightened enforcement and the National Seat Belt Enforcement Mobilization education campaign “Click it or Ticket” is taking place.

Inclement weather closed the Beartooth Highway in Montana October 8.
Credit Jackie Yamanaka
Yellowstone Public Radio
One of the hairpin turns on the Scenic Beartooth Highway near Red Lodge, MT. The "All American Highway" opens for the Summer driving season on Friday, May 27, 2016, weather permitting.

The Memorial Day Weekend also marks the opening of the Beartooth Highway from Red Lodge to the North East Entrance to Yellowstone National Park Montana. Montana transportation officials say the highway is scheduled to open for the summer season Friday, weather permitting.