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Fatal Crashes Jump Nearly 10 Percent in 2013
The highway patrol's Kalispell district reported the most deaths, at 39
Traffic moves along U.S. Highway 2 at the intersection of Reserve Drive past two white markers placed by the American Legion. File photo by Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon
Roadway deaths in Montana jumped nearly 10 percent in 2013 compared to the year before, but fatal crashes involving alcohol dropped by nearly a third, according to data from the Montana Highway Patrol.

In 2013, 224 people died in 198 crashes through Dec. 30, compared to 204 deaths in 191 crashes last year, the Billings Gazette reported Tuesday.

The highway patrol's Kalispell district reported the most deaths, at 39. The Billings district was the second-highest at 38 deaths, which is one fewer than the district recorded in 2012.

Fatal crashes involving alcohol decreased 30 percent, from 53 in 2012 to 37 this year.

Patrol deputy chief Lt. Col. Greg Watson said those numbers indicate positive results in drunken-driving enforcement and protection efforts.

"We like to attribute that to the fact that all law enforcement across Montana, not just the MHP, has very much focused on DUI enforcement and the 24/7 program statewide," he said. "There's an increased focus on DUI here. It's a team effort from all law enforcement in the state."

Pedestrian-involved fatal crashes increased more than 200 percent, from seven crashes and seven deaths in 2012 to 22 crashes and 23 deaths this year.

There is no single reason why that rate jumped so much, Watson said.

"We had a huge increase in pedestrian-related fatalities," he said. "But we also saw abnormally high amounts of abnormal situations where those were happening."

There also was an increase in motorcycle fatalities, from 30 last year to 34.

The lack of the use of a seat belt was a factor in 163 fatal crashes for the year, resulting in 186 deaths.

One-vehicle crashes were the next common element, with 139 crashes and 154 deaths.

"It's been a problem throughout my career," Watson said. "The biggest type of fatality that we deal with is a single-vehicle crash where alcohol is used and they're not wearing a seat belt."

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