HELENA – Legislators, members of law enforcement and car crash survivors gathered in the Capitol Rotunda for the presentation of three Saved by the Belt Awards.
The awards are given to people that survived a serious crash by wearing their seat belt.
According to the Montana Department of Transportation, around half of all roadway fatalities on Montana roads from 2008 to 2017 involved a person not wearing a seat belt.
MDT Director Mike Tooley urges everyone to buckle up– especially those that live and drive in rural areas.
“The fact of the matter is if something does happen in rural Montana you have a much more likelihood of dying because you’re in a remote area that you don’t have quick access to high-level medical care,” said Tooley. “You have to be more careful in Montana than anywhere else and that’s the whole point.”
Montana Highway Patrol trooper Amanda Villa told MTN she responds to an average of five-to-10 fatal crashes a year.
Villa explained in similar crashes there is almost always a noticeable difference in injuries between those who are wearing a seat belt and those who are not.
“When somebody is not wearing their seat belt– especially if there’s a rollover involved– there’s generally ejection or partial ejection so injuries are a lot more severe or often fatal in those cases,” said Villa.
Montana Highway Patrol troopers present at the Capitol event all encouraged the need for a primary seat belt law in Montana.
Troopers believe if not wearing a seat belt was a primary violation more people would buckle up to avoid a ticket, which would ultimately save lives.
More Saved by the Belt stories from Montana crash survivors can be found here.