GREAT FALLS — A group called Advocates For Highway & Auto Safety released its annual “Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws” report on Tuesday, detailing traffic deaths and what each state is doing to combat fatalities and other roadway issues.
The 58-page report goes into detail about fatalities, seat belt enforcement laws, distracted driving, impaired driving, helmet laws, and public concern about roadway safety.
Data is broken down into nationwide statistics, as well as individual states. According to the report, Montana had 184 road fatalities in 2019. The 10-year fatality total in Big Sky country was 1,989. The report states the annual economic cost due to motor vehicle crashes to be $1.084 billion.
The agency lists the best and worst states when it comes to highway safety laws. The report states Montana has just four seatbelt enforcement-related laws, the fewest of any state aside from Wyoming and Missouri.
The report notes that Montana is “missing front and rear primary enforcement seat belt laws, all-rider motorcycle helmet law, rear-facing through age 2 law, booster seat law, minimum age 16 for learner’s permit, nighttime and passenger restrictions and age 18 for an unrestricted license for teen drivers, ignition interlocks for all offenders, all-driver text messaging restriction and GDL cell phone restriction.”
Major categories in the report include Occupant Protection, Child Passenger Safety, Teen Driving, Impaired Driving, and Distracted Driving.
Overall, the report places all states and the District of Columbia into three categories: Green, Yellow, and Red. Eight states fall into the Green category. Thirty-one states are in the Yellow category. Eleven states — including Montana — are in the Red category, which the agency says means the state "falls dangerously behind in adoption of Advocates' recommended optimal laws."
Scripps’ national political editor Joe St. George got an early look at the 58-page report, and talked with MTN’s Shannon Newth during Montana This Morning (see video above)