HELENA — With Memorial Day in the rear view mirror this year, it marks the beginning of the "100 Deadliest Days" on Montana roadways, which spans from the Friday preceding Memorial Day through Labor Day.
During that time frame in 2019, Montana saw 6,029 crashes with 80 resulting in 92 fatalities, and in that same span in 2020 there were 6,248 crashes with 90 resulting in 102 deaths for an increase of 13.33%.
However, as Montana moves into this time span again this year, Montana Highway Patrol Sergeant Jay Nelson says law enforcement is seeing an alarming spike in two causes of vehicle crashes.
“During this time period, compared to the last two years, 600% increase in alcohol-related fatalities, 125% increase in speed-related fatalities," said Nelson.
According to Montana Highway Patrol's fatality report from the beginning of 2021 through May 24, there's been a 229% increase in single-vehicle accidents, and a 150% increase in accidents where a seatbelt was not used.
The reasons for the increases are unknown, but Nelson said MHP wants to do everything in its power to ensure that people are being safe on Montana roadways, including a larger presence.
"We're pushing out as many troopers as we can on overtime shifts, on regular shifts, looking at alcohol-related violations, crashes, as well as speed related," said Nelson. "We're going to be out there, and we're going to do everything we can at the Department of Justice to lower those numbers so that every family goes home safely."
As Montana roadways become more populous this summer, Nelson and MHP are advising people to slow down, never drink and drive, and always wear a seatbelt.
"That speed limit sign is for the ideal conditions. So it doesn't mean that's the speed you have to go. If it's at nighttime, inclement weather, slow down. Tell people where you're going. If you are in the vehicle, don't drink and drive, don't do drugs and drive. We always have a lot of different things out there for intoxicated drivers. We can get you a ride home, bars have various programs that are available. Get a ride, get an Uber, get a Lyft, find an alternate way to get home safe, so that you don't endanger yourself or others beginning behind the wheel," said Nelson. "Last of all, buckle your seatbelt. It's the cheapest life insurance policy you'll ever have."