Studded Tires – Drivers may use studded tires on Montana roads only from October 1 until May 31.
Each year in Montana, over 200 people die in traffic crashes; far too many. There are a few things we can all do to protect ourselves and our children—always wear seatbelts, drive within the speed limit, and don’t drink and drive. These are simple measures that save lives.
Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol, drugs or both is more than illegal—it can be deadly.
In Montana there are a number of laws related to impaired driving, but here are a few basics:
The Montana DUI statutes begin at Montana Code Annotated (MCA) 61-8-401.
In 2009, 171 occupants died on Montana highways in crashes involving passenger vehicles. Over 62 percent of them—107 drivers and passengers—either didn’t use or improperly used their seatbelts. In all likelihood, most, if not all of the 68 people who were killed because they were partially or completely ejected would be alive today had they been wearing their seatbelts.
Buckling up on every trip—not just the long distance ones—can save lives. Not wearing a seatbelt doubles your chances of being seriously hurt in a crash. Remember that most accidents occur at speeds less than 40 miles per hour, often within 25 miles of home.
Seatbelts and air bags are meant to work together to keep drivers and passengers safe. The presence of air bags in a vehicle doesn’t mean seatbelts are unnecessary.
In the United States, auto accidents are the leading cause of paraplegia (from damage to the spinal cord).
MCA 61-13-1 requires the use of seatbelts by the driver and each occupant of each vehicle. MCA 61-9-420 also requires child safety restraint systems for children under the age of 6 and weighing less than 60 pounds. A few drivers and passengers are excluded from the law (see Exemptions below), including people unable to use seatbelts due to a medical condition.
At this time, Montana does not have a “primary” seatbelt law. Under primary laws, law enforcement personnel may make traffic stops solely for failure to use a seatbelt.
The penalty for failure to use a seatbelt is $20. The penalty is not counted as a misdemeanor, it may not be counted as a moving violation—for purposes of suspending a driver license, for example—and it is not counted against a driver’s record.
The penalty for failure to use a child safety restraint system is a fine of not more than $100.
Seatbelts minimize the effects of vehicle crashes on the human body. In most crashes, there are two collisions. The first involves the vehicle striking an object, then buckling and bending until it comes to a stop. The second, the “human collision,” is more costly and damaging. When the body strikes a hard surface, it comes to a stop within a very short distance. Because the hard surface has little give, the human body must absorb most of the force of the impact. Properly adjusted and fastened seatbelts distribute the forces of the rapidly decelerating body over a larger area, while stretching to absorb some of the force. In addition, belts hold the body in place while the car crushes and slows down.
Whether a person is belted or not often becomes the difference between life and death. While researchers may differ by a few percentage points either way, figures from seatbelt studies reveal:
Highway Patrol Annual Reports provide a number of charts relating to seatbelt use in Montana. For a national perspective, visit Buckle Up America, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s campaign to increase the proper use of safety belts and child safety seats.
Montana law allows the following exemptions:
Montana’s curvy, mountainous roads and weather—which can change quickly even during summer months—require drivers to be alert to conditions at all times and to adjust speeds accordingly.
Daytime speed limits are in effect from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. Nighttime speed limits are in effect at any other time. The following speed limits went into effect May 28, 1999. These speed limits apply unless a road or highway is otherwise posted for construction or a local limit. Montana’s speed limit laws begin at MCA 61-8-303.
|Type of Highway||Cars and Light Trucks||Heavy Trucks
(over one ton manufacturer’s rated capacity)
|Interstate Within Urban Area – Billings, Great Falls and Missoula||65||65||65||65|
Laws prohibiting careless or reckless driving are in effect on Montana roads. These laws allow motorists to be stopped even if they are not exceeding the posted speed limit, if the speed at which they are traveling is considered too fast for conditions or dangerous to others on the road.
Montana law also requires motorists to operate their vehicles in a careful and prudent manner and at a reduced rate of speed, taking into account the traffic, weather, visibility and road conditions.
Drivers must operate their vehicles with regard for the safety of people and property and in such a manner that they do not endanger the life, limb, property or other rights of people entitled to use the highways.
Drivers must be aware of: