PIERRE, S.D. – With the number of motor vehicle fatalities, especially those not wearing seatbelts, already higher than last year, officials of South Dakota’s Department of Public Safety are encouraging drivers to be careful as the summer traveling season officially begins Friday.
This weekend is not only the Memorial Day holiday weekend, but it is also considered the start of summer. And with more vehicles on the road comes an increased risk of roadway crashes.
“Roadway safety is important at all times of the year, but especially during the summer,” says Lee Axdahl, director of the state Office of Highway Safety. “With more people out on the roads, it is even more important that you be careful.”
As of Tuesday, May 22, there had been 40 motor vehicle fatalities this year in South Dakota, including 10 already in May. That is a 60 percent increase from the same time last year. Even more concerning is that of the 33 fatalities where seatbelts could have been used, 64 percent of the fatalities did not.
“There is no downside to using seatbelts,” Axdahl says. “They help keep you in the vehicle which gives you a better chance to survive crashes from the minor ones to the terrible ones.”
Besides seatbelts, Axdahl encourages people to slow down, put down the distractions like cell phones, watch for others and don’t drink and drive.
“This should be a fun time of the year,” Axdahl says. “By being a safe driver, you can get to your destination and make pleasant memories, not tragic ones.”
South Dakota Highway Patrol troopers also plan to be out on the highways, making sure motorists are obeying the law. The Highway Patrol is conducting a joint I-90 safety operation with Minnesota and Wyoming for a 23-hour period that starts Friday morning and ends early Saturday.
Both the Office of Highway Safety and the Highway Patrol are part of the Department of Public Safety.