GALLATIN COUNTY — When it comes to the total number of people wearing their seat belts, a recent study shows the state of Montana ranks poorly.
About 20 years ago, the state of Montana sat as the 19th-lowest ranked state for those who were using seat belts during deadly crashes.
Now the Treasure State is around the 8th lowest.
Montana Highway Patrol says there has been improvement, but the numbers still don’t lie.
“Seventeen years experience of doing this job, I’m a believer of wearing seat belts," says Trooper Brad Moore, Montana Highway Patrol.
It’s as simple as a click. Yet, MHP troopers like Moore say catching folks not wearing their seat belt is a daily issue.
“I come to work with the idea of writing seat belt tickets everyday," Moore says.
And it happens. It’s one of Trooper Moore’s questions during routine stops.
“You guys big believers in seat belts?” Moore asks a driver pulled over on Friday afternoon.
Trooper Moore says people might be hearing the message.
“I think the culture is changing a little bit, too," Moore says. "There’s more and more people that are wearing their seatbelts. The idea of [a vehicle] not only landing out in a field or in the asphalt and the vehicle rolling onto you or another vehicle coming into you.”
And yet there are those who don’t heed that.
Furthermore, wearing a seat belt is only a secondary offense.
“There’s a guy not wearing a seat belt right there," Moore says, regarding a passing truck on Jackrabbit Lane. "I gotta have a reason to stop him.”
“I think it is everything," says Baron McGee of Bozeman. "I think it is the difference between life and death.”
We caught up with Baron McGee when he was going just a little over the limit on the way to Big Sky.
Same question: “How about your seatbelt?" Moore asked McGee. "Were you wearing that?”
It’s an issue that hits close to home for him.
“I had a boss growing up whose son, who was a good friend of mine, actually was in an accident," McGee says. "This was in California. And he did not have his belt on and wound up sitting there, dying because of it.”
As for Trooper Moore, he hopes the message keeps spreading.
And the clicking gets better.
“I don’t think it is too much to ask of yourself to throw on a seat belt and maybe stick around a little bit longer to be a dad, a father, a son, or a daughter,” Moore says.
To note, only three states saw a decline in seat belt usage according to that study: Wyoming, Oregon and Hawaii, which are also the bottom three on the national list.