This past week saw a disturbingly high number of roadway fatalities across the State of Montana, as winter weather made Thanksgiving driving conditions more hazardous.

"Prior to Thanksgiving week, I was pretty happy with where we were headed, but the Thanksgiving travel week was not kind to us: 12 people lost their lives throughout the state of Montana last week, which is a very large number for any holiday weekend and and a very high number for us on a weekly rate," said Montana Highway Patrol Colonel Tom Butler. "Prior to that, we were down almost 12 percent compared to the prior two years, now we are down about six percent."

Sadly, nearly half of those fatalities could have just been injuries if seat belts had been used.

"As of Tuesday, November 27, 161 people have lost their lives across the state," Butler said. "Sometimes the stories get lost in the numbers when we start talking about 161 fatalities, but that's 161 mothers or fathers, aunts and uncles or cousins, you know, people that didn't come home... it's really a tragedy. So far this year, 80 people who died in a collision were not wearing a seat belt, you can never say for certain, that all of those would still be alive today, but I believe a significant portion would still be alive if they were wearing a seat belt."

Montana is still on pace to have fewer crashes than last year or the year before, which is part of a larger positive trend, Butler says that although still a major factor, drunk driving appears to be less acceptable than it was, even just five years ago.