It seems Montana’s Old West roots, and particularly the negative parts, are hard to shake.
Drinking, a hallmark of the Old and Wild West, permeates the 41st state in the union, as witnessed by its high ranking on a list of the worst states for drunk driving. According to data analyzed by backgroundchecks.org and released in March 2017, Montana ranks fourth.
The state’s DUI death rate (per 100,000) was 7.19, and it marked 3,674 DUI arrests. The top three listed were Wyoming, ranked first; North Dakota, ranked second; and South Dakota, ranked third.
“To create a ranking of states, we took a combination of deaths directly attributable to DUIs, DUI arrests per 100,000 people, and drinking too much before driving, as reported by drivers themselves,” backgroundchecks.org said in its release of the data. “We then created a weighted formula.”
Take Note: If you have lost your license and need to work on driver’s license restoration, browse through the attorney directories on www.Drunkdrivingattorneys.com or www.DriversLicenseRestorers.com. Pick an attorney experienced and knowledgeable in the driver’s license appeal (restoration) process in your state. If you need to get treatment to help make a case for restoring your license, there are treatment center directories on both sites. If you need information about points on your driving record, check your state department of motor vehicles. In Montana, go to https://dojmt.gov/driving/. Helping yourself is always the first step in having your DUI attorney help you.
So just how did Montana makes this list? Well it probably has a good deal to do with the state’s Old West drinking and driving culture.
“Until 2005, when the state came under heavy duress from the federal government, it was legal to drink and drive in many places. And a few years before that, there wasn’t even a speed limit on major highways and in rural areas,” according to a 2010 article in the Deseret News.
It goes on to report, “Montana has many isolated roads and almost no public transportation. A saloon-era attitude toward drinking, coupled with Montana’s libertarian streak that eschews tough law enforcement or even letting local police set up roadside ‘safety checks,’ combine for a deadly scenario, experts say.”
Seven years later the media is still reporting on Montana’s struggles with drunk driving.
“It’s something that’s been woven into our DNA almost as Montanans,” Montana Attorney General Tim Fox said in a 2017 news story. “Unfortunately, I think many people either don’t see anything wrong with drinking and driving, or they have just become so used to it.”
The penalties for a first-offense drunk-driving conviction in Montana include up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Vehicles may be forfeited on the second or subsequent DUI, and a fourth or subsequent DUI is a felony. More information on Montana’s current DUI laws can be found here.
It’s hard to pinpoint just where in the vast state is the worst for DUIs, but 24/7 Wall St. lists Missoula is the heaviest drinking metro area. “Nearly 24% of area adults drink excessively, a larger share than in all but a dozen other U.S. metros,” the report said. “Of all fatal car accidents in the Missoula metro area, close to half involve alcohol, nearly the highest proportion anywhere in the country.”
“The fact that over 10,000 people a year die from DUI-related accidents is a travesty,” Trent Wilson, co-author of the backgroundchecks.org research, was quoted as saying. “We hope this research will open some eyes and make people think twice before drinking and driving.”