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State road deaths on the rise

Despite initial numbers that had indicated a waning trend for car accident fatalities in Montana this year, dire news has emerged from the state highway patrol that speaks to the contrary. Recent data from the Montana Department of Transportation and the highway patrol indicate that overall fatalities and alcohol-related fatalities are on the rise this year, despite some county-specific breakthroughs in low wreck totals.

The most recent statistics have been run from Jan. 1 to Dec. 3 of this year. So far, the numbers are not encouraging, according to local authorities. In Flathead, Lincoln and Lake counties, 21 people have died on the roads this year, compared to 18 in 2011. Primary roads appear to the most dangerous, with rural roads following closely behind. Additionally, alcohol-related fatalities appear to be increasing, with 36 occurring this year. That total is 13 higher than the same time last year.

Still, no one has died on a Montana interstate this year, a startling fact considering the number of people who generally frequent those major roads.

Considering statistical analyses during the past five years, one person dies on Montana roads from alcohol-related events every three days. That statistic alone puts Montana among the five worst offenders for alcohol-related driving deaths. They account for 44 percent of all driving fatalities.

Authorities say they are issuing more DUI tickets than ever before, especially for drivers in single-car accidents. Most alcohol-related accidents involve an unrestrained driver traveling at a high rate of speed and flipping the car over. The vast majority of alcohol-related fatalities also feature another interesting fact: Most victims were not wearing their seatbelts.

The lesson behind the numbers is simple: Stay off the road if you have been drinking. Victims of drunk-driving accidents can seek financial recourse by filing civil suits against the drivers who caused them injury. Consider seeking additional damages for pain and suffering, along with wrongful death if you are related to a victim in a fatal DUI encounter.

Source: Valley Journal, "Montana traffic fatalities on the rise," Daniel Martynowicz, Dec. 12, 2012

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