First, the bad news.

Montana consistently ranks as one of the worst states in the US for highway fatalities, largely because of driving under the influence. The booze culture in Montana is strong. Despite everyone knowing that drinking and driving is dangerous and illegal, it remains a huge problem, responsible for 90% of Montana's highway fatalities.

Montana is also high on the list of states where you're most likely to have a collision with wildlife, we have treacherous winter mountain passes, we travel long distances between major cities, and many Montana drivers speed. Forbes notes Montana and South Carolina tie for the deadliest states for motorists.

Read More: What Are the Highest Elevation Interstate Passes in Montana?

So... what's the good news about Montana drivers?

Digging through the Montana Department of Transportation Fact Book, I found a tidbit of positive news regarding Montana Drivers. Seatbelt use is up 20% percent in the last few years. In 2013, just 74% of Montana drivers regularly buckled their seat belts. In 2020 (the most recent data available) seatbelt use in Montana is now at 89.9%.

Credit Canva
Credit Canva

The increase in seatbelt use could be for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the "Click it, or Ticket" campaign had some impact. MDT has a newer campaign below called "Enough Reasons" that's more sobering.

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What about the remaining 10.1% who refuse to buckle up?

Federal law requires everyone to use their seatbelt. In Montana, our seatbelt law is secondary, meaning that law enforcement can't stop you solely for not buckling up. But if you're pulled over for something else, you can receive a ticket for no seat belt. Drivers have lots of excuses for not wearing them.

  • "My freedoms." We're independent folk here in Montana and some people don't like the government telling them what to do.
  • "It's too uncomfortable." Hmm. surely they're more comfortable than severe injury or death.
  • "I don't want to get trapped in the vehicle." This is one of the lamest excuses. It's exceedingly rare for car accident victims to get trapped in a vehicle because of a stuck seatbelt. You're far more likely to be ejected (64%) and die from not wearing one.

Interestingly, according to MDT, young drivers aged 15 - 24 wear seatbelts the least—a great reminder for parents to instill the habit of always clicking that seatbelt. My kids instantly remind me when I occasionally forget.

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