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The week of the July 4 holiday has earned a reputation as the deadliest for drivers on Montana roads.

Even by that standard, last week was a rough one. 

Fourteen people have been killed so far this month, including six people on July 4 and 5, Montana Highway Patrol spokeswoman Kristin Branchero said Monday. That brings the yearly total to 78.

Roadway deaths are still lower than average for the year, down about 9 percent compared to the past two years. Fatal crashes are down about 8 percent. 

Last year's tally of 186 fatalities was the lowest total since 1989.

But the Fourth of July holiday epitomizes many of the factors that cause traffic deaths to rise during the summer. 

“Over the last five years, on average, the Fourth of July has been the deadliest holiday for fatal crashes,” Branchero said. 

People are more likely to travel for recreation, and they're more likely to have a drink or two. They're also more likely to speed without the threat of snow or ice on the road. 

The spike in crash deaths so far this month is unfortunate, Branchero said, but it's also a small sample size.

“We need a much larger data set to draw any conclusive observations from it,” she said. 

Two of those deaths have come in or near Billings.

A woman died Wednesday afternoon after her car was hit from behind by a semitrailer near Acton.

A man died Thursday night in Billings after he was thrown from his motorcycle after hitting a curb on King Avenue West.

Highway Patrol focuses on three main factors in education to prevent traffic deaths: wear seat belts; obey the speed limit; and don't drive under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medication. 

“(But) at the end of the day, it comes down to the choice of the individual,” Branchero said. 

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Billings Gazette.