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Montana Gets Low Grade for Traffic Laws in State-by-State Study

Police car
Photo courtesy of Natalie Roubitchek

A new state-by-state study claims that Montana has some of the worst traffic safety laws in the country.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety President Jackie Gillan said that the cost of having bad laws is piling up.

“Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for all Americans between the ages of 5 and 24,” Gillan said. “It’s a very costly problem for states, in fact, motor vehicle crashes cost the state of Montana $621 million a year.”

The study looked at 15 laws that the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety believe every state needs to have and ended up giving Montana full credit for just six, below is the list of laws that Montana does not have along with a full description of each law by the Advocates for highway safety:

 Laws Not on the Books in Montana

  • Primary Enforcement Seat Belt Law
  • All-Rider Motorcycle Helmet Law
  • Booster Seat Law through Age 7 (Without Secondary Enforcement)
  • GDL – Minimum Age 16 for Learner’s Permit
  • GDL – Stronger Nighttime Restriction Provision
  • GDL – Cell Phone Restriction Provision
  • GDL – Age 18 for Unrestricted License
  • Ignition Interlock Law for All Offenders
  • All-Driver Text Messaging Restriction

The 15 Laws Advocated For by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety:

  1. Ignition Interlock Devices (IID) ‑ This law mandates the installation of ignition interlock devices on the vehicles of all drunk driving offenders.
  2. Child Endangerment ‑ This law creates a separate offense or enhances an existing penalty for an impaired driving offender who endangers a minor.
  3. Mandatory Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Testing for Drivers Killed and Surviving Drivers ‑ These separate statutes require any driver who is killed, or who survives a crash in which there is a fatality, to have his or her BAC tested.
  4. Open Container ‑ This law prohibits open containers of alcohol in the passenger area of a motor vehicle. To comply with federal requirements, the law must: prohibit both possession of any open alcoholic beverage container and the consumption of alcohol from an open container; apply to the entire passenger area of any motor vehicle; apply to all vehicle occupants except for passengers of buses, taxi cabs, limousines or persons in the living quarters of motor homes; apply to vehicles on the shoulder of public highways; and, require primary enforcement of the law.
  5. Learner’s Stage: Minimum Age16 for Learner’s Permit – A beginning teen driver is prohibited from obtaining a learner’s permit until the age of 16.
  6. Learner’s Stage: Six-Month Holding Period Provision ‑ A beginning teen driver must be supervised by an adult licensed driver at all times during the learner’s stage. If the learner remains citation-free for six months, he or she may progress to the intermediate stage.
  7. Learner’s Stage: 30-50 Hours of Supervised Driving Provision ‑ A beginning teen driver must receive at least 30-50 hours of behind-the-wheel training with an adult licensed driver during the learner’s stage.
  8. Intermediate Stage: Nighttime Driving Restriction Provision ‑ Unsupervised driving should be prohibited from at least 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  9. Intermediate Stage: Passenger Restriction Provision ‑ This provision limits the number of teenage passengers who may legally ride with a teen driver without adult supervision. The optimal limit is no more than one non-familial passenger under age 21.
  10. Cell Phone Restriction ‑ This restriction prohibits all use of cellular devices (both hand-held and hands-free) by beginning teen drivers, except in the case of an emergency.
  11. Age 18 for Unrestricted License – A teen driver is prohibited from obtaining an unrestricted license until the age of 18.
  12. All-Driver Text Messaging Restriction ‑ This law prohibits all drivers from entering, reading or otherwise retrieving data from any handheld or electronic data communication device, except in the case of an emergency.
  13. Booster Seat Law ‑ Requires, at a minimum, that children ages four through seven be placed in a child restraint system (booster seat) that is certified to meet U.S. DOT safety standards.
  14. Primary Enforcement Seat Belt Law ‑ Allows law enforcement officers to stop and ticket someone when they see a violation of the seat belt law. No other violation need occur first to take action.
  15. All-Rider Motorcycle Helmet Law ‑ Requires all motorcycle riders, regardless of age, to use a helmet that meets U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) standards.

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