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10-year comparisons: Gallatin County auto accidents

Statistics compared over time show common threads. You notice changes in driving habits by looking at numbers and circumstances surrounding Gallatin County auto accidents over a decade. People can change a lot in 10 years, but are drivers any safer now on Montana roads than they were then?

Motorists aren't crashing less: Between 2004 and 2013, Gallatin County had as few as 1,499 accidents and as many as 2.008 crashes in a single year. The highest crash rate was in 2007 with the lowest was in 2009, but as the decade ended, the yearly collision rate inched back up over 1,700.

Twenty-two people died in 13 auto accidents countywide in 2006. Less the half that number were killed in 2013. Significantly fewer, serious impairment crashes occurred toward the end of the decade compared to the beginning of the timeline. Driver impairment was tied to 13 accidents involving severe injuries or deaths in 2013, about 50 percent fewer substance-related collisions than in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Patterns of serious injury and fatal accidents evolved over the 10-year period within driver age groups. Crashes involving the youngest drivers, up to age 21, hit a high point of 27 in 2005, dipped to five by 2011 and rose to 11 accidents in 2013. Drivers over 65 were in nearly twice as many Gallatin County accidents in 2010 as they were in 2013.

Accidents totals fluctuated widely among drivers, ages 21 to 35 and 36 to 65. These crash rates peaked in 2005 and 2006, dropped considerably for a few years and then rebounded dramatically after 2011.

Analyzing crash trends sometimes helps lawmakers and law enforcers reduce problems that cause accidents. Trends also reveal whether new laws – for instance, stricter drunk-driving legislation and graduated licensing – have had an impact. Statistics don't speak of accident victims' hardships, but liability lawyers and civil laws address those needs.

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