Public Health officials are urging Montana Drivers to stay safe this summer. Trauma System Manager Alyssa Sexton said highway fatalities are on the rise in comparison to previous years.

“We’ve actually had a pretty sharp increase in traffic fatalities this year,” Sexton said. “Last year at the same time we were between sixty to sixty-seven fatalities. Now we’re up to seventy to seventy five.”

Last year, 15 people died in Missoula County crashes and three died in Ravalli County.

Sexton says the three main factors involved with vehicle accidents are drugs and alcohol, distractions, and drowsiness.

“They’re one of the highest if not the highest in the nation for fatalities on our highways, Sexton said. “This year alone approximately fifty percent of our fatalities on Montana roadways involved alcohol.”

Motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of traumatic death in Montana. Sexton also emphasized the importance of wearing a seat belt when hitting the road.