Even though the 4th of July is a holiday to celebrate, the Missoula Police Department and the Montana Highway Patrol wants to remind all recreationists to be safe and responsible when it comes to drinking and driving over the holiday weekend. Sergeant Greg Amundsen with the Missoula Police Department said extra patrols will be out over the long weekend holiday, specifically July 3 through July 6, to target drivers under the influence of drugs and alcohol:

"We have increased patrols for the 4th of July holiday and these are being sponsored by the Montana Department of Transportation, STEP Enforcement, and other grants so we were able to put extra officers out above and beyond the officers that are normally working," Amundsen said. "Through this holiday we're looking for both compliance with people wearing their seat belts and DUI extra patrols at night to make sure people aren't drinking and driving."

While their primary focus will be to get impaired drivers off the streets and prevent drivers who have been drinking from entering the Interstate and the state highway system, Amundsen said patrol officers will also enforce all other traffic laws, including Montana’s seat belt laws.

"I think the state of Montana typically sees a bit of an uptick as far as the number of crashes that we have statewide," Amundsen said. "Most of it I think has to do with holiday and vacation traveling. We get much more of what they call vehicle miles traveled, which just means that a lot of people are driving a lot more than they usually do and with that increased travel on the highway, you'll kind of get a spike in crashes."

Most motor vehicle fatalities in Montana occur in the six months between May and October, and more than 60 percent of these involve drugs or alcohol.

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