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Missoula leaders want input for traffic safety plan

By Faith Smith, KECI Reporter, fcronin@keci.com
Published On: May 23 2013 10:56:29 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

Missoula city leaders insist dangerous driving has taken too many lives, so Thursday evening they held a meeting to get public ideas on how to make Missoula roads safer. 

NBC Montana was at the meeting where hundreds of suggestions were made to transportation officials -- themes like impaired driving, expensive driver’s education costs and confusing intersections came up over and over again.

“$440 for driver’s education?” asked one resident to a Missoula driver’s education instructor.

“Yup, $440 per student,” he said. 

People at Thursday’s meeting said new drivers simply can't afford to get educated.

“Driver’s education classes are extremely expensive, so some students are not able to afford driver’s education,” said Charmell Owens, the director for Drug-Free Communities for Ravalli County. 

Some think local businesses like automotive shops should be spurred to offer driver’s educations scholarships.

“If they put in their promo 'Hey, we'd like you to drive, so students we'll give you a scholarship,’” said one resident. 

Montana Highway Patrol Captain Jim Kitchin suggested the state financially reward safe driving.

“Some states have defensive driving courses that you pay for but you get a card and when you go to your insurance company -- if you have a valid defensive driving card you get a discount,” said Kitchin.   

One Missoula resident says she thinks people don't always stop for pedestrians, because it's unclear they want to cross.

“I find that cars either just don't see me or they don't care to stop,” she said.  “We need higher visibility of crosswalks, whether that be flashing lights or better paint or a sign that says yield to pedestrians.”

A hot button topic was how to reduce impaired driver crashes.  Some suggestions -- educate residents on new laws like 'forced blood draws’ and make sure officers know how to recognize impaired drivers.

“Provide information on criminal liability for servers who over-serve as well as education on alcohol effects,” said one group leader. 

One Missoula resident says having two-lanes of traffic in each direction is dangerous.

“When you have two lanes in one direction, so you have an undivided four-lane road, that is where we're seeing pedestrian death,” he said. 

In all of the areas of concern, education kept coming up as a way to tackle all of them.

These are just suggestions at this point -- it won't be until the first week of July that the Office of Planning and Grants takes these ideas into consideration for future transportation planning.

If you missed tonight’s meeting and want to send in your suggestion click here.