Deadly Weekend on Montana Highways Draws Comments from Highway Patrol [AUDIO]
Eleven people are dead after weekend crashes in Western Montana, three in Sanders County, five near Browning, two near Troy and one just east of Missoula.
On Monday, Montana Highway Patrol Sergeant Ramon Zylawi said the death toll would have been significantly reduced if only those involved had been wearing seat belts.
"The number one thing that people can do, even if they have a hard time with it being the law, is to just wear the seat belt," Zylawi said. "People often think they're good drivers and they don't want the government telling them what to do, but then, you're putting way too much faith in the other person coming at you. If they hit you or force you off the road, that seat belt is going to be the primary thing that saves your life."
Zylawi said the seat belt also keeps the driver in the right position to maintain control of the vehicle in a crash.
"That seat belt keeps you behind the wheel, so not only can you control the car, but you're also in the correct position for the airbags to deploy, when they come out of the steering wheel at 150 miles per hour," Zylawi said. "The main thing is that you stay within the cabin of the vehicle. If you talk about 70 mile per hour speeds and being thrown out of the vehicle, hitting the pavement or hitting a tree, it's likely you won't survive."
Of the five people killed in the accident near Browning, none were wearing a seat belt.
Zylawi said summer drivers always seem to be in a hurry, and that RV's or trucks hauling boats or trailers are a constant distraction, especially on two-lane highways, but there is a Montana law that can provide some relief for other drivers.
"There is a state statute that mandates that if you are on a two-lane highway driving under the speed limit, and there are four or more vehicles behind you, you must pull over and let the traffic pass, when it is safe to do so," Zylawi said. "This statute helps keep impatient drivers from making risky and sometimes dangerous decisions about passing a long line of vehicles."
Zylawi said the most difficult job for anyone in law enforcement is to notify a family that a loved one has been killed in a car accident, especially when the death could have been prevented by wearing a seat belt.
"We have head-on crashes where there are people dead in one car, and in the other car, people are out walking around giving us a statement because they had their seat belts on, and the others did not, so they're not around to give a statement at all. So, I encourage everyone to wear a seat belt, so that nobody does have to come to the house and give sad news... because it can be prevented."