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How serious is Montana's drunk driving problem?

Most Montanans know that drunk driving is a serious public safety problem. But many may not realize that Montana has one of the most serious drunk driving problems in the nation. Data from 2012 shows that Montana ranked second among all states in drunk driving fatalities per 100,000 people. In 2012 there were nine deaths due to drunk driving accidents per 100,000 population in Montana. The only state that fared worse was North Dakota, with 10.3 deaths per 100,000 population.

Some other statistics shed some light on the sources of the problem. For example, Montana has the seventh highest rate of youth consumption of alcohol, at 29.7 percent. In 2012, an average of 3.8 minors died in drunk driving accidents, per 100,000 people in the state of Montana.

Montana also has a relatively high rate of binge drinking and ranks 17th of all the states in that category. The state also has one of the highest rates of beer consumption per capita. The average Montana resident drank 41.2 gallons of beer in 2012. That puts Montana third in the beer consumption category, behind North Dakota and New Hampshire.

Total drunk driving arrests were relatively low in Montana at 4,418. That makes Montana ninth lowest in total DUI arrests for 2012. This statistic is not surprising given the vast distances covered by Montana roads; law enforcement officers simply can't be present at all times and in all places.

Combating the scourge of drunk driving will take more law enforcement resources, harsher penalties and more public awareness campaigns on the dangers of drinking and driving. The civil justice system also has a role to play. Those who have suffered the loss of a loved one to a drunk driver have the right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit and hold the drunk driver accountable for their actions.

Source:, "States With the Most Drunk Driving," Vince Calio, accessed Jan. 26, 2015

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