The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released new numbers this month, showing that Montana remains number one in the nation for the amount of traffic fatalities per capita.

The data is from 2013, and includes all 50 states, but Montana Highway Patrol Col. Tom Butler said  his state’s low population and high visitation skew the data.

"We have nearly a million people in Montana, however, our population swells dramatically due to vacations to both Glacier Park and Yellowstone National Park," Col. Butler said. "While the numbers are figured on the population that maintains the residents here in Montana, we all know just by travelling around the state, that we have a significant amount of people that come and visit our state."

If Butler’s theory is correct, an increase in park attendance should cause the fatality rate to also increase. Both Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks are hitting record numbers this year and Col. Butler said our fatality rate has also jumped.

"This year, unfortunately, we are up 15 percent. This last year we had 151 deaths and we're at 176 deaths this year. The telling statistic in all of that to me is 137 of those people were not wearing their seat belts," Col. Butler said. "It's such a simple thing. I can confidently say that near 90 percent of them would still be with us had they put their seat belt on."
Because Montana traffic fatalities are usually less than 300 in total, small changes can lead to big jumps in the overall percentage.

The map above shows all of the fatalities in Montana from January 1 to October 8, 2015.

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