Montana Traffic Laws

This is the first edition of the Guide to Montana Traffic Laws. It is based on the National Motorists Association's Motorist's Guide to State and Provincial Traffic Laws, but tailored to our needs here in Montana. It is the only guide of it's kind available in Montana. It is as accurate as we could make it without getting too long and is based on laws in effect on or before November 1, 1993, with an update for the repealed national speed limit added in December 1995.

The National Motorists Association is a drivers' rights organization dedicated to representing American motorists and preserving their rights. If you're reading this guide, chances are good that you are concerned about your rights as a motorist. Please call 1-608-849- 6000 for more information on the NMA, or stop by their web site at

MCA means Montana Code, Annotated. Copies of the various laws are available at most libraries in the reference section. Motor vehicle laws are found in Title 61.

Speed Limits:

Urban district: 25 (ref. 61-8-303, MCA)
Construction zones: 35 (ref. 61-8-303, MCA)
State highways: Reasonable and prudent (day), 55 (night) (ref. 61-8-303, MCA)
Interstates: Reasonable and prudent (day), 65 (night) (ref. 61-8-303, MCA)
Speed limits are absolute for all roads, meaning you may not exceed them under any circumstances.

Montana's speed limits are enforced through the use of pacing, radar and airplanes. In those cities and towns with more than 2,500 people where radar is used, a warning sign must be placed along roads leading into that town though absence of such signs does not invalidate an otherwise proper arrest. (ref. 61-8-704, MCA) The use of radar is acceptable evidence. (ref. 61-8-702, MCA)

Montana's daytime speed limit is "reasonable and prudent" for cars. Trucks are limited to 65. At night, it's 55 on two-lane roads and 65 on four-lane roads for everyone. County roads are not covered by the "R&P" speed limit, they still have numerical limits in force. (ref. 61-8-303, MCA)

"Reasonable and prudent" speeds are determined by the arresting officer but are probably between 70 and 85 mph. If you are passing most of the traffic on the road, then you are not traveling at a safe speed. A violation of the basic speed rule (61-8-303, MCA) carries fines ranging from $70 to over $500.


Drag racing/speed contests: 5
DUI: 10
Leaving the scene of an accident (death/injury): 8
Leaving the scene of an accident (vehicle damage only): 4
Operating with a suspended/revoked license: 6
Operating without insurance: 5
Operating without a license: 2
Reckless driving: 5
Speeding: 3
Vehicular assault: 12
Vehicular homicide: 15
All other moving violations are worth 2 points.

You're considered a habitual traffic offender if you get 30 or more points in a three year period. If two or more charges are filed concurrently, only the offense carrying the highest point value can be charged against you. (ref. 61-11-203, MCA)

When and where to file accident reports:

Accidents involving death, injury, or apparent property damage exceeding $250 must be reported immediately to the local police or the Montana Highway Patrol. (ref. 61-7-103 and -108, MCA)

It is illegal to leave the scene of an accident involving death or injury. Penalties include jail time of 30 to 365 days, a fine between $100 to $5,000, or both. (ref. 61-7-103, MCA, paragraph 2) You'll also lose your license for up to one year. (ref. 61-7-103, MCA, paragraph 3, also see 61-5-205 paragraph 4) You are required to assist the injured to the best of your ability, including transportation to a hospital if necessary. (ref. 61-7-105, MCA)

If just vehicle damage is involved, the offense of leaving the scene is a misdemeanor. (ref. 61-7-104, MCA)

Insurance requirements:

$25,000 minimum for bodily injury or death to one person in any one accident, $50,000 for bodily injury or death to two or more people in any one accident, and $10,000 for injury to or destruction of property. (ref. 61-6-103, MCA, paragraph 2b, subparagraphs i, ii, and iii)

Proof of compliance must be carried in the vehicle. However, if you can't provide proof of compliance at the time of arrest, you are not guilty of non-compliance if you can provide such proof later that indicates coverage on the date of the offense. (ref. 61-6-302, MCA)


Open alcoholic containers are allowed at the option of local government.

The blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is .10%. If your BAC is .10% or greater, you are considered to have been under the influence of alcohol. (ref. 61-8-401, MCA, paragraph 4c)

If your BAC levels are between .05 - .10%, that fact by itself does not mean that you were under the influence of alcohol. However it is considered along with other evidence. (ref. 61-8-402, MCA, paragraph 4b)

Penalties for first DUI include jail time of 1 to 60 days and a fine of $100 to $500. The jail time may not be suspended unless it will pose a risk to your physical or mental well-being. (ref. 61-8-714, MCA)

A second conviction carries a fine of $300 to $500, jail time of at least 7 days but less than 6 months, of which 2 days must be consecutive. (ref. 61-8-714, MCA, paragraph 2)

A third or subsequent conviction carries jail time of 30 to 365 days, of which 2 days must be consecutive, or jail time of more than one year and a fine of $500 to $1,000. (ref. 61-8-714, MCA, paragraph 3a) Also on your third conviction, the vehicle is confiscated and sold. Lien holders get the first crack at the proceeds from the sale followed by the arresting agency. Joint ownership is not grounds for dismissal of the charge. (ref. 61-8-714, MCA, paragraph 3b, also see 61-8-421, MCA)

We have an implied consent law. That means by your operation of a vehicle you are considered to have already given consent to blood, breath, or urine tests for the purpose of detecting alcohol ordrugs. The test(s) must be administered with reasonable grounds to believe you were in control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A test for alcohol must be given first whether or not that test also covers drugs. If your BAC is over .10%, a test for drugs may not be given. (ref. 61-8-402, MCA)

If you refuse a test, the arresting officer must immediately seize your license. You are then issued a temporary license good for 72 hours. A first refusal is punishable by a 90 day suspension, a second or subsequent refusal within 5 years from a previous refusal is followed by a 1 year revocation with no chance of getting a probationary license. (ref. 61-8-402, MCA, paragraphs 4, 5a, and 5b)

Your license will be revoked for DUI. (ref. 61-5-205, MCA, paragraph 2) The Department of Justice/Motor Vehicle Division will notify you in writing. You have the option of filing a petition for a hearing on the matter in a district court in the county which the offense occurred. You must file within 30 days. (ref. 61-8-403, MCA)

Studded tires are allowed from October 1st to May 31st. Chains are required when and where posted. (ref. 61-9-406, MCA, paragraphs 3 and 4) Failure to use chains is a non-moving offense punishable by a fine of $25. (ref. 61-9-420, MCA)

Any motorcycle rider under 18 must wear a helmet. (ref. 61-9-420, MCA) The penalty for not wearing one is a $5 fine. (ref. 61-9- 518, MCA)

Equipment violations must be fixed within 5 days. (ref. 61-9-503, MCA) If convicted of failing to comply, a first offense is a misdemeanor and punishable by a fine between $10 to $100. (ref. 61- 9-511, MCA)

Child restraints are required for all children under 4 years old or less than 40 pounds. However, you're not required to have more than three child seats. Strangely, only Montana residents are required to use child restraints. (ref. 61-9-420, MCA)

Failing to use a child seat is not punishable provided that you can prove you bought a child seat within the past 30 days. If left uncorrected, the first offense fine can range from $10 to $25. (ref. 61-9-423, MCA) Failure to comply with the child seat law is admis- sible in court for personal injury or property damage but does not constitute negligence. (ref. 61-9-422, MCA)

Seat belts must be worn by all occupants in the vehicle. Another traffic offense must have been committed or your vehicle must be judged unsafe before an officer can write a ticket for non-compliance. It is okay to operate a vehicle if there are more occupants than seat belts. (ref. 61-13-103, MCA)

A violation of the seat belt law is punishable by a fine of $20. It is not a misdemeanor and may not be counted as a moving violation for the purpose of suspending your license. Also, the violation cannot be recorded on your license and insurance rates cannot be increased. (ref. 61-13-104, MCA) Failure to comply with the seat belt law is not admissible in court for any claim of personal injury or property damage and does not constitute negligence. (ref. 61-13- 106, MCA)

Who to Contact:

City/town or county commissioners are where you generally write in reference to traffic-related items such as speed limits, unsafe crosswalks, dangerous intersections, etc. Addresses you may want to know:

Montana Highway Patrol
303 North Roberts
Helena MT 59620
1-800-525-5555 (accidents only, state-wide)

Billings City Commission
PO Box 1178
Billings MT 59103

Cascade County Commission
Room 111
Courthouse Annex
Great Falls MT 59401

Great Falls City Commission
PO Box 5021
Great Falls MT 59403

Helena City Commission
City/County Building
Room 321
Helena MT 59624

Lewis and Clark County Commission
City/County Building
PO Box 1724
Helena MT 59624

Missoula City Council
435 Ryman
Missoula MT 59802
523-4654, 523-4604

Missoula County Commission
200 West Broadway
Missoula MT 59801

Yellowstone County Commission
PO Box 35000
Billings MT 59107

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