State saw four-week stretch without fatal injuries

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Between Feb. 26 and March 30, there were no fatal crashes in the state of Montana, according to a press release from the Montana Department of Transportation.

“Four weeks without anyone dying in a crash is certainly encouraging, and we hope all Montanans are on board to keep the momentum going,” said Mike Tooley, director of the Montana Department of Transportation.

The fatal crash bringing the four-week stretch to an end occurred on March 30 near Lame Deer, in Rosebud County, with another fatal crash in Lake County following on Monday, April 2, just north of Polson on U.S. Highway 93.

Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Chan Berry said that a factor in the downward trend could be the reasonable weather “and that we didn’t have tourist-season traffic.” To go four weeks without a serious or fatal crash “is rare,” he added.

Since 2014, Montana has participated in the nationwide Vision Zero initiative, with a goal toward zero fatalities and serious injuries on Montana roadways, said Janet Kenny, supervisor of the state’s Highway Traffic Safety Section.

Four elements make up Vision Zero: education, enforcement, engineering and emergency services.

Through education, MDOT works with the DUI Task Force and Safe On All Roads programs, teen traffic safety programs as well as focusing on higher-traffic times of the year.

Law enforcement work on enforcing seat belt and impaired driving laws, while emergency medical responders are properly funded and equipped to respond to vehicle crashes through the Emergency Medical Services Grant Program.

Finally, through engineering, officials monitor Montana roadways to ensure they are safely maintained and built.

Between 2012 and 2016, Lake County had 37 fatalities and 894 serious injuries as results from crashes.

“This accounts for 4 percent of the statewide fatalities and 3 percent of the statewide serious injuries for the state in that time period,” Kenny explained.

Of the 37 fatalities, 22 were unrestrained vehicle occupants, and 25 involved an impaired driver.

Seventy percent of the fatalities during that five-year period occurred during daytime hours, Kenny said.

Berry said some places to use extra caution when traveling through Lake County include the intersection of Minesinger Trail and U.S. Highway 93, the extended “S”-curve on U.S. Highway 93 in Ronan and the Ravalli area south of St. Ignatius.

As the tourist season approaches, Berry said that motorists should keep in mind to follow posted speed limits, do not drive impaired, and drive defensively.

“Leave plenty of space between you and the car in front of you. Also pay attention to surroundings; not just the car in front of you but pay attention to all the cars around you,” he added.

More information on Vision Zero can be found on www.mdt.mt.gov

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