Fatal crash submerged in ditch

First responders work the scene of a fatal crash that left a vehicle partially submerged in the Billings Bench Water Association irrigation ditch on June 7, 2019. According to the Montana Department of Transportation, June 2019 was the most deadly in the last 10 years.

This past June was the deadliest in a decade, according to the Montana Department of Transportation.

In 30 days, 22 people died on Montana roadways, MDT reported. While there was no specific cause for the sudden increase, the MDT called the change "shocking" compared to recent downward trends.

According to MDT statistics, 72 people have died on Montana roadways this year, compared to 66 fatalities at this point in 2018. It is a lower number than this time in 2017, when 80 fatalities had occurred on Montana roads by July 1. 

Of those deaths, 42 have had impaired driving as a factor in the crash and 29 did not correctly utilize their seat belt, according to Montana Highway Patrol crash data. 

Most of those deaths occurred on rural roads and highways, with 47 deaths counted on those routes. Just nine deaths have been reported on interstates this year.

“No death on Montana roadways is acceptable,” said Mike Tooley, director of the Montana Department of Transportation, in a press release. “Folks are out enjoying our beautiful state and great weather, but people are dying. It is everyone’s responsibility to stay vigilant while on the road. Crashes are preventable, and so is the pain of losing a loved one.”

The MDT said that for drivers to stay safe, they should always follow the speed limit, give full attention to driving, drive while well-rested, keep the vehicle in running condition, watch for hazards, buckle up and drive sober.