HELENA — With summer just around the corner, traffic safety leaders met Thursday at Montana Department of Transportation headquarters to discuss how to improve driver safety and reduce crashes on Montana roads.
The meeting was part of the “Vision Zero” initiative, a steady effort to one day get the number of deadly traffic crashes in the state to zero.
Traffic Safety Board members as well as various organizations and agencies, from the Montana Tavern Association to the Governor’s Office, discussed a variety of topics, including impaired driving and other incidents of traffic fatalities.
In 2018 Montana saw its lowest number of fatalities in a decade. Fatal crashes are currently down nearly 20% from previous years.
However, the state is preparing to enter the busy summer travel season, and just this week there have been five fatal crashes in only three days on Montana roads.
Mike Tooley, director of the Montana Department of Transportation, told MTN, “We are working together…today’s meeting was a stakeholder group meeting, basically, decision makers from state agencies and organizations like Tavern Owner’s Association and we’re coming together to plot new strategies to push the number to zero.”
Tooley continued, “So, once in a while, we get together to see what everyone’s doing and remind them that what we are doing is effective and yet still very important to continue.”
A program highlighted at the meeting was Helena’s Home Free Program.
“Home Free” provides free Uber rides to patrons around Helena from participating taverns and establishments. The idea is to eliminate impaired driving for those more prone to it, not to encourage drinking so heavily that you become reliant on “Home Free” to be taken home.
Since 2017, “Home Free” has aided more than 1,200 impaired drivers, keeping them safe and off the road.
-Reported by Christine Sullivan/MTN News