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Montana Highway Patrol officers and tow truck drivers investigate the scene of a slide off of a jackknifed tractor trailer and a pickup truck near Drummond Monday afternoon. Since last Tuesday, the Highway Patrol responded to 89 crashes according to MHP District One Commander Capt. James Kitchin.

Montana Highway Patrol and the Missoula Police Department had a quiet but still busy New Year's weekend, reporting a total of eight and two DUIs respectively. 

Even though the number was less than expected over the holiday weekend — Missoula usually has eight to 10 DUIs over a holiday weekend — public information officer Sgt. Travis Welsh said one is too many.

"I think a lot of people elected to stay in because of the weather, instead of going out and driving this past weekend," Welsh said. "I'd like to think, to some degree, our education efforts are paying off and people are making the smart decision not to drink and drive." 

Welsh also added that officers work around the clock to keep people safe and impaired drivers off the road. 

While the lower DUI numbers are welcome, the number of vehicle-related crashes and collisions appeared to stay true to the norm. According to Welsh, MPD responded to more than 70 car crashes within city limits between Dec. 20-27, although he couldn't say if they were all weather related. 

Similarly, since last Tuesday, MHP responded to 89 crashes, including a trooper and sheriff's deputy whose cars were hit by other motorists, according to MHP District One Commander Capt. James Kitchin.

Kitchin stressed the importance of driving safely in hazardous winter conditions. If motorists slide off the road, even if they don't cause any damage, he urged them to stay with their vehicle and call highway patrol or 911. 

"If you get outside your car and someone comes around the corner, hits their brakes and slides into you, there's a good possibility you'll die or get hurt pretty bad," Kitchin said. "So the best thing to do is stay in your vehicle."

He also said it's smart to keep survival gear in your car in the event you get stuck in a blizzard so you can safely wait for authorities to respond.

In general, being aware of changing road conditions, giving yourself plenty of time to commute and wearing your seat belt are the best and easiest ways to ensure safe travel in the winter.

"Buckle up, stay at home if you don't need to go anywhere when there is bad weather … and do not drink-and-drive!" Kitchin said. 

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