Gallatin County sees alarming rise in wrong way drivers

On Behalf of | Mar 13, 2024 | Motor Vehicle Accidents

The Interstate Highway System was designed to make driving from one city to another as safe as possible. Unfortunately, some drivers have managed to defeat this intention by somehow driving for significant distances in the lane intended for drivers headed in the opposite direction. As expressed by Montana Highway Parol Sergeant Jay Nelson, the last thing a motorist on the Interstate Highway System thinks about is the possibility of meeting a vehicle headed the opposite direction.

Recent increase in head-on incidents

Yet the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office has recently reported a sharp increase in the number of head-on incidents, some of which resulted in catastrophic and sometimes fatal collisions. Many of the incidents have occurred on Interstate Highway 90, including a significant number in Missoula.

Beginning of spike in head-on incidents

The string of head-on incidents that has bothered local law enforcement began in November 2003 when a local woman was arrested and charged with 37 counts of criminal endangerment, driving under the influence, and unauthorized use of a vehicle after driving on I-90 between Belgrade and Bozeman. Another incident occurred in early December when a man was arrested for allegedly driving westbound in the eastbound lanes of I-90 between Belgrade and Bozeman. A head-on collision on January 4 took the life of a young local woman.

Risk for first-responders

Sgt. Nelson pointed out that first-responders face a significant danger in trying to get in position to intercept the wrong-way vehicles before they collide. One of the most effective methods for preventing a head-on collision is to position the first-responder vehicles in the same lane as the opposing vehicles, but that method is very dangerous for the first-responders.


The Montana Department of Transportation has ordered nine new wrong-way signs with radar and flashing lights. They will be installed on I-90 and 287 at Wheat, Manhattan, Amsterdam and Belgrade.


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