May 27, 2011 8:57 AM by Katy Harris (KAJ News)
KALISPELL- Alcohol-related car wreck fatalities in Montana are going down, but as this Memorial Day weekend rolls around, most law enforcement agencies know, the number of alcohol related fatal crashes will start to add up again.
Statistics show that most of the people involved in these fatal crashes are too young to drink with the Montana Department of Transportation reporting that 18 to 20 year olds are ranked the highest group of drivers involved in alcohol and drug related fatal crashes in Montana.
Some law enforcement officials think the sobering numbers are partly related to the college life, where partying and drinking is more culturally accepted.
"They're out of high school and they're in college and certainly the culture in college is condusive to drinking," Glacier High School Resource Officer Jason Parce said.
Drivers under the age of 18 also make up a portion of alcohol and drug related fatal crashes.
Many under age kids drinking get alcohol from an older family member or friend, something both the child and the older adult don't take seriously, since it's against the law or that it can have consequences.
"In a lot of cases the parents are the ones that are encouraging this activity. You're telling your kids that this is okay, and it's not," Parce commented. "Why would you allow your kid to do that? It's essentially poisoning your brain, and it's gonna have long term effects.
During the past legislative session, some lawmakers pushed for stricter laws on drinking, including a bill that will go into effect in July to provide a 24/7 sobriety project for impaired driving offenders.
They will be required to be tested for alcohol several times a day, but it's just one step closer to changing Montana's outlook on brushing off drinking irresponsibly.
"Traditionally our laws have been very lax when it comes to alcohol and drugs, and I think that is related to why it's okay. It's seen as okay," Parse observed.
The statistics do show some good news. Over the last five years Montana has seen a 13% reduction in alcohol and drug related crashes.