Driving is a necessity in Montana, with its wide-open roads and rural landscape. Many residents of Montana lose their lives in traffic accidents each year, but new data suggests that Montana’s highways may be becoming safer. According to recent statistics from the Montana Highway Patrol, the highway death count steadily decreased throughout 2018. Experts hope that this trend continues into 2019 and beyond.
According to a recent article in The Missoulian, the death toll on Montana highways is the lowest it has been in nearly 30 years. The Montana Highway Patrol releases a weekly report on the crash fatalities for the state, keeping track of data throughout the year.
According to their most recent report for the end of 2018:
This data is significant because the last time that Montana had 181 traffic fatalities was in 1989. The lowest death count in Montana history was 162 fatalities in 1949. Deaths on Montana highways peaked at 395 during 1972.
According to the Montana Highway Patrol, certain factors increase the risk of traffic fatalities on state highways. In the year-end report, the agency provides crash factor data for accidents that took place between January 1st, 2018 and October 31st, 2018. Out of 144 reported traffic fatalities in 2018:
These factors also contributed to non-fatal crashes during 2018. Out of the 136 reported traffic accidents in 2018:
Based on this limited time frame, all of these factors decreased from the prior year. Alcohol-related traffic deaths decreased by nearly 9% from 2017. Drug-related fatalities saw the largest decrease, with 64% less drug-related car deaths from 2017. Speed-related deaths decreased by approximately 5%, while seatbelt-related deaths only decreased by 2.67%.
This data does not include the crucial time period between November 1st and December 31st, however. The holiday season typically sees a greater spike in traffic-related deaths than any other time of the year. This phenomenon is due to increased travel time for Montana residents, plus a spike in drunk driving on holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve.
The Montana Highway Patrol also includes projected year-end statistics for crash factors. Since the agency has not yet completed many investigations that took place between November 1st and December 31st, this data is based on estimates:
Staying aware of the driving environment, assigning a designated driver, and using a seatbelt can help Montanans reduce their risk of dying in a traffic accident.