The Montana Highway Patrol and all other law enforcement agencies across the state are being extra vigilant over the long 4th of July weekend, looking for those who may be driving drunk, impaired or otherwise distracted.

MHP Captain Jim Kitchin appeared at a special ceremony this week that honored the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office for its support and cooperation in last December’s five semi-truck crash east of Missoula on I-90.

Reporters asked Kitchin about the dangers of summer driving.

“We call them the deadly 100 days of summer,” said Kitchin. “Anytime during the summer which starts in May and usually lasts through Labor Day weekend, we see a lot of fatalities. There were a few of them around here already. All over the state we’ve had multiple fatalities almost every week.”

Kitchin said the statistics are tragically unavoidable due to several factors.

“If you start looking at vehicle miles traveled per person in this state, or per mile basically, it’s been going up gradually and it continues to go up. We still have the same amount of troopers and the same amount of law enforcement on the roads. Add increased heat, nicer, longer days, faster speeds, it’s just a mix. Then, people go out and they drink and drive like they shouldn’t do, they don’t wear their seat belts and we have fatalities on the highway.”

According to statistics from the Montana Department of Transportation, 72 fatalities have been recorded in Montana through June 30, 2019. June was a particularly deadly month with 22 fatalities in just 30 days.