“Big Sky Country” describes the wide-open, free-range country of the 48th least densely populated state in the U.S.: Montana. Although over half the state is part of the rolling Northern Plains, some of the mountain ranges in Montana stretch all the way to Alaska. The “Land of the Shining Mountains” gets its name from these majestic hills which attract tourists in the millions each year. Making sure to bundle up for the cold winters is a necessary precaution in this cold, mountainous state. Staying protected on the road is important as well, and this list of Montana’s important car insurance information is CheapCarInsurance.net’s way of helping protect Montana’s drivers.
Average Car Insurance Premiums
Montana’s average premiums and average premiums as a percentage of income have made it below the national average. Census.gov reports the state’s premiums as a percentage of income have hit near-record lows, just under the national average’s current record low.
Drunk Driving Fatalities
On the rise, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s report shows a growing number of drunk driving fatalities have occurred in the past several years. While the national average has grown to 31 percent, Montana’s number has grown to 44 percent.
Teen Drinking and Driving
The Center for Disease Control reveals Montana’s teens drink and drive at higher a percentage than their national peers. The national average of 10.1 percent is overshadowed by Montana’s 13.4 percent.
Vehicular Theft in Montana
Montana, while far below the national average in auto thefts, saw a slight increase in 2012, according to the FBI. Montana ended the year at a rate of 168, while the national average remained just under 230.
From mountains to plains, from snow to sunshine, change is a constant in this state. Changing insurance laws can cause a headache, so here is a list of all the essentials to take the guesswork out of Montana’s car insurance search.
Minimum Requirements for Car Insurance in Montana
- The Montana Department of Justice requires all Montana drivers to carry Liability Insurance.
- Liability Coverage minimums:
- $25,000 per individual to cover bodily injury or death.
- $50,000 per accident involving bodily injuries or deaths.
- $10,000 for property damage.
Montana’s Commissioner of Insurance and Securities has published a useful brochure entitled Consumer Guide to Auto Insurance that outlines the state’s insurance information.
New Driver Licensing Requirements:
- Montana residents must obtain a state driver license within 30 days of residency, and new drivers under the age of 18 must complete the Graduated Driver License (GDL) program. The GDL consists of 3 steps: the Permit Period, the First-Year Restricted License and the Full-Privilege Driver License. The applicant must complete each stage in order to graduate to the next.
- Prior to beginning the program, applicants age 14 years, 6 months must complete a state-approved Traffic Education Learner’s License (TELL) course.
- Permit Period: This permit is valid for 1 year. Applicants age 16(or applicants age 15 who have completed a TELL) must pass the vision and written tests to apply. During this period, the following applies:
- Applicants may only drive with a parent/legal guardian or a licensed driver age 18 or older who has been authorized by the parent/legal guardian.
- Applicants must complete 50 hours of supervised driving including 10 hours of night driving.
- Regardless of the applicant’s age, all occupants must wear seat belts.
- The permit must be held for at least 6 months.
- The applicant must maintain a clean driving record.
- First-Year Restricted License: This is a full license with the following restrictions enforced for the first full year:
- During the first 6 months, unless supervised, the applicant may carry no more than one unrelated passenger who is under the age of 18.
- After the first 6 months, unless supervised, the applicant may carry no more than 3 unrelated passengers who are under the age of 18.
- The applicant may not drive between 11 pm and 5 am unless:
- driving for an emergency
- driving for farm-related activities
- driving to and from school, work, church or activities related to each of these
- Full-Privilege Driver License: Applicants who have held a First-Year Restricted License for 12 months with no violations will have the restriction automatically removed and graduate to the Full-Privilege Driver License.
- Vision Exam. Each applicant must pass the vision exam with a visual acuity of 20/40 or better with or without corrective lenses. Multiple restrictions can be applied to applicants with worse than 20/40 vision. The applicant’s depth perception and color blindness is also tested during this exam.
- Written Test. The written test is an evaluation of the applicant’s knowledge regarding traffic rules, regulations, signs and markings.
- Road Skills Test. The road test evaluates the applicant’s skill in controlling a vehicle both safely and legally. The Montana Department of Justice outlines the requirements and the scoring for the driving test. The test consists of a vehicle inspection and a driving portion.
- Fees. The following fees apply to a new Montana driver license:
- Age 14: $35.50, valid for 7 years
- Age 15: $30.50, valid for 6 years
- Age 16: $25.50, valid for 5 years
- Age 17: $20.50, valid for 4 years
- Age 18: $15.50, valid for 3 years
- Age 19: $10.50, valid for 2 years
- Age 20: $5.50, valid for 1 year
- Ages 21-67: $40.50, valid for 8 years
- licenses over 67 years of age have varying fees as well, and for more information see the state’s Department of Justice’s Fee Chart.
- BAC limit: .08 Montana’s Department of Transportation describes the penalties, associated state laws and influencing factors in their publication which can be accessed here. Following is a summary of Montana’s minimum DUI penalties:
- First Offense:
- Fine: $300 – $1,000. Involving a passenger under 16 years old: $600 – $2,000
- Jail: 1 day to 6 months. Passenger under 16 years old: 2 days to 1 year
- License suspension: 6 months
- Possible Ignition Interlock Device (IID)
- Completion of a chemical dependency program
- Second Offense:
- Fine: $600 – $1,000. Inlovling a passenger under 16 years old: $1,200 – $2,000
- Jail: 7 days to 1 year. Passenger under 16 years old: 14 days to 1 year
- License suspension: 1 year
- Possible IID
- Completion of a chemical dependency program
- Third Offense:
- Fine: $1,000 – $5,000. Involving a passenger under 16 years old: $2,000 – $10,000
- Jail: maximum 30 days to 1 year. Passenger under 16 years old: 60 days to 1 year
- License suspension: 1 year
- IID required
- All jail times are mandatory, may not be suspended and must be served in jail as opposed to house arrest.
- DUI convictions can permanently impact a driver’s commercial license, even if the offense involved only the driver’s regular license and personal vehicle.
- DUI conviction penalties can increase with aggravated factors and higher BAC levels.
Texting & Driving Laws
Montana has no restrictions on distracted driving, according to Distraction.gov.
One must understand the backstory on many laws to make sense of them. Here are a few of Montana’s with no backstory whatsoever. It is illegal to use a revolving sprinkler to annoy pedestrians walking on the sidewalks. Bombs, grenades and high-caliber weapons are not permitted in city council meetings. And in the state, it is illegal for a married woman to go fishing alone on Sundays!