American Indians comprise 6.2% of the population in Montana, but represent about approximately 17% of the motor vehicle crash deaths in the state each year. In an effort to spread the safety message in Tribal communities, Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) developed the Safe On All Roads (SOAR) program. This is a traffic safety education program that provides strong and meaningful messages relevant to the individual culture of each community. Coordinators living and working in the community manage their local program and assist in developing appropriate education material.
SOAR Coordinators partner with, Tribal Council Members, Judges, Law Enforcement, Injury Prevention Specialists, Tribal Health, Tribal Transportation, local Tribal DUI Task Forces, and other traffic safety stakeholders in their community.
Local SOAR Coordinators who are members of the community and who promote traffic safety locally are some key factors that make this program a success. They provide tailored messages regarding seat belt use, impaired driving, and child passenger Safety to best reach Tribal members.
The Montana Department of Transportation is deeply committed to reducing crash deaths and injuries on the reservations in Montana. The department initiated the SOAR program to reduce highway fatalities through education and community outreach on Montana Reservations.
Occupant Protection Objectives
- Increase seat belt use
- Increase awareness of the value of seat belts
- Support education regarding proper use of child safety seats
Impaired Driving Objectives
- Reduce incidence of driving impaired
- Educate young adults and youth not to ride with a driver who has been drinking
- Writing and distribution of news releases
- Creative development and media campaigns
- Production and distribution of promotional items
- Coordination with community agencies and organizations
- Coalition-building with regional and community leaders
- Data collection
- Presentations at schools and meetings
- Support for law enforcement
- Advocacy for policy change
- Facilitation of displays and sponsorships for public events
- Recruitment of student advocates
Montana, as a whole, ranks at or near the bottom in the nation every year for traffic safety. There are more impaired driving and unrestrained fatalities per capita than almost all other states.
Over the last five years, there were anywhere from 52% to 73% Native American impaired driving fatalities, and 68% to 87% unrestrained fatalities. The five-year average for Native American impaired driving fatalities was 61% and 76% for unrestrained fatalities. The overall goal of this program is to reduce the five-year average number of Native American fatalities to 32 by 2020. Currently the five-year average is 38.
Other than a slight increase in 2016, impaired and unrestrained Native American fatalities have been declining as a percent. The five-year average of impaired driving fatalities dropped from 71% during 2015 to 61% in 2016. In addition, preliminary numbers for 2017 indicate there were only 31 total fatalities. These are successes for the program and will make achieving the 2020 goal possible.
For more information contact: Sheila Cozzie
Phone: (406) 444-7301