By ARINA BILLIS/Montana State News
Montana has the worst drivers in the nation.
According to CarInsuranceComparison.com, a website that lets people compare features of different automobile insurance companies, Montana is ranked as the worst state for number of drunken driving incidents.
The website annually ranks each state looking at five categories: drunken driving, speeding, careless driving, fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, and failure to obey laws, which includes fatal crashes that involved traffic signals, not wearing seat belts and driving with an invalid license.
The 2014 report notes that Montana’s rank moved up by eight places, tying with South Carolina for first. The state similarly moved up in the “failure to obey” category.
Though Montana is also listed as the state with one of the highest highway fatality rates, according to the Montana Department of Transportation, there has been a 55 percent decrease in the amount of annual crashes since 1992.
Highway Patrol Sgt. Patrick McLaughlin has seen this impact locally during his 15 years in Gallatin County. “Better roads and more personnel are certainly improving traffic,” said McLaughlin. According to the Highway Patrol there, were five fewer crashes and five fewer fatalities in Gallatin County during this January than the same time last year.
Despite the overall improvement crashes are still happening. By Feb. 11, six fatal crashes were registered in the Bozeman area. McLaughlin said the key factors in those crashes were no seatbelt use (three accidents), bad road conditions and speeding (two accidents) and alcohol-related (one accident).
“The DUI is the one we are most concerned about,” McLaughlin said. The rate of alcohol and drug (both prescribed and illegal) related crashes has increased compared to 15 years ago, he said.
The volume of state traffic has fluctuated annually as well. In Gallatin County in 2014 there were 100,091 vehicles registered for less than 100,000 residents, according to the Montana Department of Transportation. Of these vehicles, 39,307 of them are passenger vehicles and 63,163 are trucks and SUVs. Trucks tend to have lower rates of crashes, especially fatal accidents.
Despite popular misconception, there are fewer fatal crashes during winter months than summer months. According to McLaughlin, during winter accidents most vehicles just slide on icy roads and people often don’t get injured.
-Edited by Nicole Duggan