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Wrong-way highway drivers frustrate Gallatin County sheriff

“This is an intoxication issue"
NEW WRONG WAY SIGNS .jpg
Posted at 8:23 AM, Feb 09, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-09 10:24:20-05

BOZEMAN — In less than three months there have been four arrested wrong-way drivers on Interstate 90, including one involving a fatal head-on crash. The Department of Transportation has recently ordered new wrong-way signs, but will that really solve the issue?

“Right now, the four, I think it's been alcohol-related. And I am getting a little frustrated with the community,” said Gallatin County Sheriff Dan Springer, explaining that in all of the recent wrong-way driving incidents alcohol is the leading cause.

“This is an intoxication issue. People need to stop driving when they're intoxicated. Servers need to stop serving people when they're intoxicated,” the sheriff said.

On Nov. 24, 2023, a man was arrested and accused of endangering 37 other vehicles as he drove the wrong way on I-90 between Bozeman and Belgrade.

Another man was arrested on Dec. 3 after allegedly driving westbound in the eastbound lanes of I-90 at the same location.

On Jan. 4, 22-year-old Laysa Grewell was killed when a wrong-way driver struck her head-on near Three Forks on I-90. An investigation into that incident is ongoing, according to the Montana Highway Patrol, and charges against the driver are expected.

The most recent incident occurred on Feb. 3 when a man was arrested after heading eastbound on I-90 in the westbound lanes near Manhattan.

Although drunk driving seems to be the leading cause of these wrong-way incidents, Springer says there are still steps the Montana Department of Transportation is taking in hopes of lowering rates of wrong-way driving on that stretch of interstate.

“Right now, MDT, working with them they have ordered the signage that should be coming in the next 8-10 weeks,” Springer said.

The nine new wrong-way signs will be installed at four interchanges. The locations are I-90 and 287 at Wheat Montana, Manhattan, Amsterdam, and Belgrade.

“They have a radar on them so if they start going the wrong direction, the signs start to flash and light up,” Springer said, explaining the new features of these wrong-way signs.

Springer also said that these installations are only initial steps to a much larger issue, but for now the wrong-way signs are the quickest solution to see improvement on the roads.