In Kalispell, Montana we usually experience dangerous winter driving conditions. Whitefish, Columbia Falls, Flathead County, and surrounding areas, such as Lincoln County (Libby, Eureka), Lake County (Polson, Ronan, Mission Valley), and Sanders County (Plains, Thompson Falls) experience similar conditions. The November ice rain, snow, and ice give way to December ice rain, snow, ice, fog, and other dangerous conditions. This is especially true in northwest Montana – as Flathead County sits on the west slope of the Swan Range of the Rocky Mountains.
While one of the most beautiful places in the world, our weather can make driving more treacherous than it appears, even to local residents. The variable conditions can catch drivers off guard. Reference to local media shows us the dangers out on our roads, and sadly fatal car crashes are simply too common.
There is a high rate of auto accidents in Montana. Factors that contribute to the high rate of injury crashes include a unique combination:
- High travel speeds
- Bad weather
- Challenging road conditions
- Drunk driving
Montana, unfortunately, has one of the highest rates in the country for the number of deaths caused by drunk driving. According to the latest statistics available in a recent article, Montana ranks second worst, with only North Dakota, our neighbor to the east, with higher (worse) rates.
Kalispell, Columbia Falls, Whitefish, and the other areas around Whitefish Mountain Resort (formerly known as Big Mountain, as it is still known to most local residents) and Glacier Park are beautiful and provide winter recreation second to none. However, local residents and visitors must always be mindful of the conditions and dangers on our roads. Many of the visitors to the area find our road system that has struggled to keep up with population growth continues to be a challenge. This creates conditions that are dangerous for local residents and our visitors from other states – as well as Alberta, British Columbia, the rest of Canada.
While many of our visitors are from states like Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, the Pacific Northwest, and other regions that see much snow and ice, we also have a large number of visitors each year from places like Texas, Arizona, and California that do not. Car wrecks that occur even at low speeds can result in serious injuries.
Montana Winter Driving Considerations and Remedies
At this time of year, snow tires (whether with studs or similar), and careful driving are highly recommended. The use of seat belts at all times is also essential. The failure to utilize a seat belt and ejection from the vehicle are factors in many fatal car wrecks. Wearing a seat belt is a critical and well-established way to reduce fatal injuries, regardless of the cause of motor vehicle crashes. Another factor to consider is the time of day or night. At this time of year, staying off the roads after midnight can help you avoid the significant percentage of drivers on the road that have been drinking.
One winter driving danger that folks do not consider – in addition to driving without adequate or appropriate tires, awareness of conditions, not using seat belts – is driving (or being a passenger) without adequate insurance coverage.
In Montana, there is a high rate of uninsured and underinsured drivers. “Defensive driving” as far as we are concerned, also includes carrying substantial uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage to protect your family and passengers from irresponsible drivers on the roads.
Underinsured motors coverage is some of the least expensive, and most critical coverage one can purchase. We have seen underinsured motorist coverage of $100,000 for $21 per year. The most challenging part of underinsured motorist coverage is asking for it from your agent or the insurance company, and making sure everyone is covered under the policy you believe is covered under the policy. “Full coverage” means that you have enough insurance and kind of insurance to meet your needs. This includes having substantial med pay coverage, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. A good agent will strongly recommend adequate uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, even insist on it or require you to sign an acknowledgment and waiver if you decline it. He or she may simply decline to write an inadequate policy. An agent should write the policy coverages and sell you a policy with an adequate coverage that considers your potential expenses and potential lost earning capacity, among other factors.
Of the ways to save money on an auto policy, skipping underinsured motorist coverage is not the way. A better approach would be to increase the deductible for collision or comprehensive coverage. Please also make sure that everyone who lives in your home is listed on the insurance policy, family member or not, so that the insurance company does not have that as a basis to try to deny coverage.
Do You Have Questions? Contact Our Law Firm to Learn More.
The attorneys at Bliven Law Firm, P.C. are happy to answer questions about your auto insurance converge, including reviewing your policy, and we counsel clients about getting the coverage that will address their situation and needs to help protect their family in the event of a motor vehicle crash that results in injuries.
The Montana car accident lawyers at our firm represent the injured, sick, and disabled. Whether a car wreck, workers’ compensation injury, or disability claim, we have the skill, experience, and dedication to assist you and your family. Contact us online or by calling (406) 407-9099.
We are located in Kalispell, Flathead County, Montana, in the heart of the Flathead Valley. We are a law firm the represents innocent victims injured by the negligence and wrongful conduct of others. We do not represent the insurance companies – or the wrongdoers. We are firmly rooted in the community, and we are here to serve you.