Does Montana do enough to crack down on drunk drivers?

Montana residents should understand the state’s penalties for impaired driving and know how much of a problem drunk driving really is.

Most people in Montana have likely been exposed to information that highlights the serious danger that can result when a person chooses to drive a vehicle after drinking alcohol. Yet, despite the fact that the combination of alcohol and driving is well known to be a dangerous and even a deadly one, many people continue to get behind the wheel after consuming alcoholic beverages. Is the state of Montana doing enough to help keep innocent people safe from drunk drivers?

New laws last year increased penalties

In 2015, The Billings Daily Gazette reports that lawmakers in Montana took a good hard look at the state's penalties for people convicted of DUI offenses. As a result, a bill to increase some of the penalties was introduced and eventually passed. Many fines were raised and some a new fine was instituted for people who do not comply with officers' requests to take breath tests.

A look at the DUI penalties for a first conviction

The State of Montana indicates that drivers convicted of their first drunk driving offense must spend at least 24 full hours in jail. A jail sentence may actually be ordered lasting up to six months for a first DUI depending upon the circumstances.

In addition to time in jail, a driver may expect to lose the right to drive for six months and have 10 points added to a driving record. The financial penalties will include court costs as well as a fine of at least $600 and possibly as high as $1,000. A first DUI conviction may also result in the required use of an ignition interlock device or the seizure of a vehicle by the law.

Subsequent DUI offenses

As can be expected, penalties increase with each offense after a first DUI conviction. Felony charges will be entered for fourth or subsequent arrests.

Second offenses are calculated based upon a 10-year look-back period relative to the first offense. An arrest 11 years after a first one is still considered a first offense but an arrest 9 years after a first one is considered a second offense.

Montana's DUI fatality records

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Yellowstone County experienced more drunk driving deaths than any other county for the five years spanning 2010 to 2014. In all 39 lives were lost to drunk drivers in Yellowstone County over those years. In Missoula, Big Horn and Cascade Counties, 30, 28 and 26 fatalities occurred.

An ongoing problem that requires help

While it is good to know that the state is cracking down harder on drivers once they are convicted of DUI offenses, the reality is that more such accidents will continue to happen. After such a crash, victims should always reach out to an attorney for help. Seeking compensation can be one way of getting the word out about the dangers of drinking and driving.