Helena-area law enforcement agencies get grants to address road safety
The Montana Department of Transportation has awarded $2.66 million in grants to help achieve “Vision Zero,” the initiative to eliminate deaths and serious injuries on Montana roads.
The goal of the grants is enforcement and education to improve traffic safety.
The Lewis & Clark County Sheriff’s Department and the Helena Police Department are getting a combined $42,500 in grants.
A portion of that money will go toward their STEP Programs and within the city limits, a portion of that money will go toward another new radar speed sign.
The city recently installed three of those signs: one on Villard Avenue, another on Benton Avenue by Carroll College, and a third on Boulder Avenue by Bryant Elementary.
Helena Police Assistant Chief Steve Hagen says the grant will pay for one more radar sign, which are put into problem areas to help drivers realize when they’re going too fast.
Hagen explained, “Where you see the signs now are areas where we could sit all day and write speeding tickets day after day after day. If that’s all we’re doing, we’re not fixing the problem. We’re just making people pay for speeding. We want to fix the problem. So what we had to do is take the next step, which in this case was the radar signs.”
There have been 159 fatalities on Montana highways in 2015, compared to 140 fatalities for the same period in 2014, according to the MDT.
“Montana is a big state with thousands of miles to travel,” said Mike Tooley, director of MDT, in a press release. “Funding safety programs throughout the state is vital to saving lives and preventing injuries.”
High-visibility enforcement is one of the most effective countermeasures in reducing traffic fatalities.
As the perceived risk of getting caught by law enforcement increases, the likelihood that people will engage in unsafe driving behaviors decreases.
Law enforcement agencies throughout the state are receiving grants to participate in the Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) that funds overtime patrols and equipment purchases to concentrate on enforcement of seat belt laws and impaired driving laws.
Funding DUI task forces, DUI courts, and the 24/7 Sobriety Program are other mechanisms aimed at improving traffic safety through enforcement and education.
“So far this year the number of fatalities are outpacing last year and we are heading the wrong direction if zero is the goal,” said Tooley. “Preventing these fatalities is up to everyone, not just those who do it for a living. Make sure everyone is the vehicle is buckled up, pay attention to the road, and never let anyone drive impaired.”