Gazette opinion: Words to live by: Buckle up, drive sober

2013-05-07T00:00:00Z Gazette opinion: Words to live by: Buckle up, drive sober The Billings Gazette
May 07, 2013 12:00 am

Montanans have been driving more this year and the big summer travel season hasn’t even started yet.

Sadly, the number of traffic deaths has risen with the number of miles traveled.

As of Monday, the Montana Highway Patrol reported 63 traffic fatalities for 2013, compared with 54 at the same point in 2012. No highway patrol district is reporting fewer fatalities than last year. However, the Billings and Glendive districts have seen the most fatalities with 11 each so far in 2013.

The year got off to a terrible start for pedestrian safety. So far this year, eight pedestrians have been killed on Montana roads, compared with just two by the second week of May 2012. The number of motorcyclists killed was three for both 2012 and 2013, the number of bicyclists killed was zero for the first part of both years.

Among the 52 other people who lost their lives on Montana roadways this year, 38 were not using a seat belt, according to MHP data.

In 2011 (the most recent year for which Montana Department of Transportation crash analysis is available) 45 percent of fatally injured vehicle occupants were ejected from the vehicle.

Another huge factor in traffic fatalities is drinking and drugged driving. Alcohol- and drug-related crashes accounted for an estimated 9.6 percent of all reported traffic crashes in 2011 and for 42 percent of all fatalities, according to MDOT. Since 2002, the proportion of Montana traffic fatalities involving alcohol or other drugs has varied from 49 percent to 42 percent, according to MDOT data.

In recent years, an average of 1,560 people a year were killed or injured in alcohol/drug involved crashes in recent years, according to MDOT.

Estimates of miles traveled from MDOT indicate that the state’s roads were busier in the first three months of this year than they were in the same periods of 2012 or 2011. If this trend continues, the busiest travel months – June through September – will bring increases of hundreds of millions of miles traveled.

Travel is good for our vast and beautiful state, but travelers must help keep themselves safe. If Montana drivers were as likely as the average American to use seat belts, fewer of us would be injured in crashes and fewer of us would die.

Increase your odds of arriving alive: Buckle up, drive sober and alert on every trip.

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