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
Data drives the SOAR programs strategic plan. This need to be prefaced by saying, Montana is usually ranked 1 or 2 every year in the nation for traffic safety issues. Meaning, there are a high number of fatalities that are impaired and/or unrestrained. As you look at the tribal numbers they may seem alarming, but the entire state as a whole does poorly every year.
As you can see, over the last five years, Native American driving fatalities ranges from 52% to 73% impaired and 68% to 87% unrestrained. The five-year average is 61% of all Native American fatalities were impaired and 76% were unrestrained. This compares to Montana as a whole where 40% were impaired and 52% were unrestrained.
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% during 2016. In addition, preliminary numbers for 2017 indicate there were only 31 total fatalities. These are viewed these as successes.
For more information contact: Sheila Cozzie
Phone: (406) 444-7301