The Montana Highway Patrol has released data about the number of fatalities during 2015. According to Col. Tom Butler, there was a slight uptick in fatalities over 2014, and one easily identified leading cause in those casualties.

"There were 224 fatalities in 2015 and nearly 180 of those were not wearing seat belts. If you compare that to any group of people, like at a sporting event, that is a significant number of people who all aren't with us going into 2016 unfortunately."

Butler says that the uptick in fatalities was notable in Billings and Havre. Missoula, on the other hand, had a very slight decline.

In 2014, there were 27 deaths in the Missoula District, or the western part of the state, that does not include Kalispell, which is its own separate district. In 2015, there were 26 deaths. Again, we are talking about people who had family, friends, relatives,  hopes and dreams that all came to an end in 2015, but compared to the past it was a pretty status quo year."

Of the 224 Montana crash fatalities in 2015, lack of a seat belt was involved in 80 percent of those deaths. Other leading factors like speed or alcohol impairment were involved in less than 35 percent of crash fatalities.