In front of an audience of young adults on the University of Montana campus on May 7th, 2014, Montana Department of Transportation Director Mike Tooley announced “Vision Zero,” a multipronged initiative with the ultimate goal of eliminating deaths and injuries on Montana highways.
“Today I am standing up for the lives of all Montanans and making a commitment to aim Montana toward zero deaths and injuries on our highways. One life lost to a crash is one too many,” Tooley said. “It’s a huge effort, but the Department of Transportation and our partners are united in our mission to save lives on Montana roads.”
To demonstrate the havoc that vehicle crashes can wreak, MDT also introduced its Twisted Metal Sculpture Garden on the UM campus. (To view the sculptures and hear the audio, visit the Listen to Real Survivors page.) The exhibit featured remnants of vehicles wrecked on Montana roads, along with audio stories of real Montana crash survivors. The exhibit encouraged Montanans to share their own stories of lives shattered or saved on Montana highways by posting to #VisionZeroMT.
MDT reported that in the last 10 years 2,309 people died in vehicle crashes on Montana roadways, 492 of which were 18- to 25-year-olds — the age group with the highest fatality crash rate.
“Imagine if all the students today at Park High School in Livingston were taken from their community,” Tooley said. “That’s how many 18- to 25-year-olds we’ve lost in a decade, and it’s simply not okay for our state to lose lives to something that could have been prevented.”
Reaching Montana’s young drivers will be key in eliminating deaths, Tooley explained. MDT reported that 85 percent of those 18- to 25-year-old fatalities in the last 10 years involved a crash with an impaired driver or occupants who were either not wearing their seat belts or wearing them incorrectly.
Four Emphasis Areas
Vision Zero focuses on four emphasis areas:
- Education through public information campaigns during the busiest travel periods and local outreach through Buckle Up Montana, DUI Task Force and Safe On All Roads (SOAR) programs, including teen traffic safety educational programming.
- Enforcement of Montana seat belt and impaired driving laws by Montana Highway Patrol and local law enforcement agencies, whose presence reminds drivers and occupants to obey traffic laws. In addition to increased enforcement periods during Mobilization and Selective Traffic Enforcement Program or STEP periods, when traffic enforcement is increased around the busiest travel times of the year and around events that include an emphasis of alcohol consumption.
- Engineering of Montana roadways to ensure that Montana’s thousands of miles of state roads and highways are built and maintained with safety as the first concern.
- Emergency medical response adequately funded and equipped to respond to vehicle crashes with proper emergency response vehicles, training and medical equipment through the Emergency Medical Services Grant Program.
“All four areas of focus for Vision Zero are critical as we move toward zero deaths and injuries on Montana roadways,” Tooley said. “But we can’t do it without the complete support of every Montanan. That means that every time you get into a vehicle: Buckle up, make sure your children and friends are buckled up, and never drive impaired or allow an impaired person to drive.”
MDT started a media campaign this month to reach drivers of all ages during the state’s busiest and deadliest travel season — from May through October, when 61 percent of all roadway fatalities have occurred in the last 10 years. Billboard and television advertising will depict the graphic reality of crashes and the devastation family and friends experience when someone they love is lost to a crash.
Read more on the Vision Zero website.
Each year in Montana thousands of lives are affected by seat belt use. Many are shattered because people don't buckle up. Many more are saved because they do. At MDT, our goal is to end death on Montana roads. We call it Vision Zero. And it begins by ensuring that every person buckles up every time they get in a vehicle.
If you need more reasons to buckle in, look at the numbers, below, and think of the lives - the men, women, children, families and friends - shattered needlessly in the past decade.
- 1,293: Total number of people killed in vehicle crashes who were not wearing a seat belt or were wearing a seat belt improperly.
- 337: Total number of 18- to 25-year-olds who died in vehicle crashes who were not wearing their seat belt or were wearing their seat belt improperly.
Planning A Sober Ride Saves Lives
Wearing seat belts saves lives. Planning a sober ride does too. Over the past 10 years more than 1,000 people have died, needlessly, in vehicle crashes involving an impaired driver. For more information on sober rides and safe driving, visit our Vision Zero "Plan Your Ride" page.
Share Your Story!
Help Montana reach Vision Zero. Always wear your seat belt. Do you have a story about a seatbelt saving your life or a family member's life? Use the Saved by the Belt Nomination Form.
Want to see what others are sharing? Visit our Saved by the Belt Award Program page!