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Montana leads the nation in traffic deaths per capita

A recent survey of accident data from all 50 states resulted in a conclusion that may shock many Montana residents. Our state is ranked number one for fatal motor vehicle accidents after adjusting for population.

Researchers reviewed data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Federal Highway Administration. The data showed that in 2013, Montana had 22.6 road fatalities for every 100,000 residents. The state with the lowest fatality rate, Massachusetts, had only 4.9 traffic deaths per 100,000 residents.

Many of the states with the highest fatality rates share one important characteristic -- more of their total miles driven are in rural areas. In Montana, over 69 percent of miles driven were on rural roads. Ninety-eight percent of the fatal accidents in the state took place on those rural roads. Another factor contributing to the high death rate in Montana may be seat belt use -- only 74 percent of Montanans use a seatbelt, compared to 87 percent nationwide.

Rural roads and lack of seat belts are only part of the story, however. An attentive driver should be able to navigate a rural road without having an accident, and it's hard to believe every victim of a fatal accident in Montana failed to wear a seat belt. Accidents generally happen when drivers are negligent and fail to operate their vehicles with reasonable care. Negligence can take many forms including speeding, failing to yield the right of way, drunk driving and texting and driving, among many others.

When a negligent driver causes the death of a loved one, Montana law allows the next of kin to recover monetary compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. A financial recovery may not bring back the victim, but it can help the family cope with their loss and give them the satisfaction that some justice has been done.

Source:, "Most Dangerous States to Drive," Samuel Stebbins, Dec. 1, 2015

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