Slow down, buckle up and wear a helmet

The Montana Highway Patrol’s annual report reflects some positive news with a decrease in deaths related to crashes during the past two decades in Park County. Despite an increased population in the region, motorists may at least find comfort in knowing that the region’s roads are safer than they were 20 years ago.  

One troubling finding in the report, however, is the fact that fatalities are up during the first six months of 2017. From January to July, the patrol reports 11 fatalities in District 7 — Meagher, Broadwater, Gallatin, Park and Madison counties. 

That’s up from eight fatalities during the same period in 2016, MHP Sgt. Josh Brown told The Livingston Enterprise last week.

Here’s a quick look at some of the findings contained in the MHP report: In 2016, the patrol counted 15 fatal crashes in District 7, down from 22 in 2015 and 21 in 2014. During that same period, the district’s population went from 123,594 in 2014 to 130,423 in 2016.

The report lists 337 crashes in Park County during 2016, with 272 of those crashes linked to property damage. Three of those crashes resulted in fatalities, while 63 were linked to injuries.

That’s a sharp decrease when you consider the fact that eight people died on Park County roads in 1996. The report doesn’t pinpoint an exact cause for the uptick in deaths in District 7 this year, but Sgt. Brown told The Enterprise that factors such as motorcyclists not wearing helmets and speed may be to blame. 

In other words, slow down out there and slap on a helmet if you’re riding a motorcycle.

At the same time, crashes across the Treasure State related to out-of-state drivers have nearly doubled in the past year, Brown said. “More people are coming in and out of the state every year with the parks, so it could be a reason,” Brown told Enterprise reporter Samantha Hill during a recent interview.

Brown encouraged parents to always buckle up their children, noting that three children have died in crashes during the last month across District 7. It may be summer in Montana, but whether you’re a full-time resident or visiting our pleasant area on vacation, the annual report is a good reminder to slow down, buckle up and put on a helmet.

— Justin Post
 Livingston Enterprise Managing Editor