Montana roadways have seen a significant increase in deaths from crashes this year, and state agencies are reminding people to stay safe during the long Labor Day weekend.
At least 122 people have died this year on Montana roads as of Aug. 26, according to the Montana Department of Transportation. Reasons for fatalities are consistent, and include impaired driving, lack of seat belts, and vehicles leaving the road.
“The increase in deaths from crashes this summer is alarming,” said Mike Tooley, director of the Montana DOT in a press release. “In recent years we have seen a positive trend with lower fatality and serious injury rates, but 2019 has been brutal. My hope is that people are taking traffic safety seriously and are being vigilant, no one wants to put their family and friends at risk.”
Billings Police Lt. Brandon Wooley said that a few extra DUI patrol units will be in the city this weekend.
“We do this kind of stuff over the Fourth of July weekend and Labor Day weekend,” he said. “It’s sort of the last hurrah for summer time before people are going back to school or college.”
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No extra patrol units from the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office will be out for the weekend, according to Capt. Bill Michaelis with the sheriff’s office. The usual eight officers per shift will still be patrolling this weekend.
Busy holiday weekends can be especially risky with more cars on the road. During the past 10 years, a total of 43 people died over the Labor Day holiday, or Wednesday through Tuesday, and more than half of deaths involved an impaired driver, the DOT said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that among drivers nationally between the ages of 18 and 34 who were killed in crashes over the Labor Day holiday period in 2017, 42% of those drivers were drunk, with blood alcohol levels of 0.08 or higher.
This weekend, MDT will be working with local law enforcement agencies across the state and the Montana Highway Patrol by increasing patrols. They encourage Montana residents to wear their seat belts, to have a sober driver and to call 911 if impaired driving is suspected on the roadways.