With a state population of just over 1 million, Montana continues to have one of the highest per capita alcohol-impaired driving fatality rates in the nation. Last year alone 192 people were killed on Montana’s roads and highways, with alcohol being the leading cause of fatal crashes.
Although these numbers are still too high, Montana has been making real strides in reducing alcohol-impaired crashes. The number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities dropped 25% between 2012 and 2014.
According to Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, one of the keys to this progress is Montana’s 24/7 Sobriety Program. In early 2010 the state launched a pilot of the program, which requires DUI offenders to abstain from alcohol. Abstinence is enforced and supervised through twice daily breath testing or continuous transdermal alcohol monitoring devices. Since its inception, Montana’s 24/7 Sobriety Program has expanded across 22 of the state’s 56 counties.
A recently released analysis by the RAND Corporation found that Montana’s 24/7 program is an effective way to deter drinking and reoffense among individuals with histories of alcohol-related crime, including drunk driving. Researchers noted that second-time DUI offenders who participated in the program were 45% to 70% less likely to be re-arrested for drunk driving within 12 months.
The 24/7 program is expected to continue to grow to more parts of the state, and the hope is that Montana’s alcohol-impaired driving fatalities will continue to decrease. We look forward to the day Montana loses its designation as one of the worst states regarding alcohol-impaired driving fatality rates.