Montana Woman Named 'Honorary Trooper' for Slowing Cars Down With a Hair Dryer

Alejandro de la Garza

There’s a new Montana trooper in town — or at least an honorary one.

After taking local speed limit enforcement into her own hands last month, Montana grandmother Patti Baumgartner was made an “honorary trooper” for her efforts to slow speeding cars and keep local roads safe.

Baumgartner’s effort was documented last month, when photos emerged on social media of her pointing a white hair dryer along a stretch of roadway in Polson, Mont., in an effort to get drivers to slow down. The hope, according to local station 8KPAX, was that drivers would mistake the hair dryer for a speed gun and ease up on the gas pedal.

Baumgartner’s vigilante traffic enforcement didn’t go unnoticed. On Aug. 20, Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Noah Pesola tweeted that he found Baumgartner and commended her efforts with a campaign hat, a sticker badge and the title of “honorary trooper.”

“I thought it was hilarious,” Pesola explained to 8KPAX. “I think that we have a speed issue in Montana and I thought it was a great creative idea for the public to try and combat that a little bit without making people too upset.”

In 2018, fatalities on Montana’s highways fell for the third straight year to as low a number as has been recorded in almost seven decades.

But Montana still has notoriously dangerous roadways. In 2018, a report from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute found that Montana had the third highest vehicular fatality rate of all states, at 21.7 deaths per 100,000 people. That rate, based on 2015 data, was surpassed only by Mississippi and Wyoming.