A 45-year-old Belgrade man was jailed after a hit-and-run crash on I-90 that apparently was motivated by road rage.
According to court documents, a Montana Highway Patrol trooper responded to a report of a hit-and-run crash on the interstate at mile market 297 west of Belgrade just before 11 p.m. Monday night. The trooper stopped the driver of a Toyota Tundra believed to have been involved on Churchill Road, just south of Manhattan.
The driver of the Tundra told the trooper he had been driving westbound on I-90 between Bozeman and Belgrade when he attempted to pass a Toyota RAV 4 in the left lane. He said the driver of the RAV4 steered left and crashed into him.
The driver of the RAV4 said he was traveling westbound in the left lane when the driver of the Tundra merged into the left lane behind him. He said the Tundra driver accelerated, turned left into the median, began to pass in the median, then rammed into the driver’s side of the RAV4. He said the Tundra driver then accelerated and drove away without identifying himself.
The RAV4 driver said the Tundra driver had looked over at him and “flipped him off” when the two vehicles were driving in proximity to one another east of Belgrade. He said he returned the gesture, after which the Tundra driver pulled ahead of him in the left lane, continually striking the rumble strip and kicking up rocks onto his RAV4. The RAV4 driver said he suspected the other driver’s behavior was intentional. He said the Tundra then moved into the right lane, allowing him to pass, but then the Tundra drove into the median in an attempt to pass on the left.
The Tundra driver told the trooper he first spotted the RAV4 at mile marker 305 near Bozeman, where it was traveling in the right lane while passing other vehicles. As it approached a large truck in the right lane, the Tundra driver said he knew the RAV4 would want to pass it. Rather than allow the RAV4 to move into the left lane to pass the truck, the Tundra driver said he intentionally accelerated to prevent that from happening. He said the driver of the RAV4 then flipped him off and he returned the gesture.
He said he didn’t see the RAV4 again until the vehicles approached the airport interchange in Belgrade, a statement that made the trooper suspicious he was lying. The man said the RAV 4 was in the right lane, and as he started to pass it in the left lane, the RAV4 steered to the left and crashed into the passenger side of the Tundra.
When asked why he didn’t stop to report the accident, the Tundra driver said it was “not a big deal” because he didn’t think the damage was significant and he didn’t want to involve law enforcement officers.
After reviewing the evidence and repeatedly questioning both parties, the trooper determined the Tundra driver was not being truthful and had created a substantial risk of serious injury or death to the occupants of the RAV 4, given the traffic volume, weather conditions and location of the crash.
The Tundra driver was taken to the Gallatin County Detention Center, where he was charged with criminal endangerment, failure to give notice of an accident, and leaving the scene of an accident. He was held without bond on the criminal endangerment charge.