High Number Of Motor Vehicle Fatalities Prompts Department Of Public Safety Message

November 7, 2017

PIERRE, S.D. – After 29 vehicle fatalities in the last two months, South Dakota Department of Public Safety officials are again stressing the need for driver and passenger safety.

Preliminary numbers include 15 fatalities in September and 14 in October. So far in November, there have been three confirmed fatalities statewide.

The September-October fatalities occurred in 26 fatal crashes –13 reported in each month. Motor vehicle crashes accounted for 23 of the fatalities while the other six involved motorcycles or pedestrians. Of the 23 motor vehicle fatalities, 16 were not wearing seatbelts.

“Too many fatalities, too many families grieving,” says Office of Highway Safety Director Lee Axdahl. “Many of these fatal crashes didn’t have to happen if people paid attention to driving and most importantly wore seatbelts. It is about protecting you and others.”

Statistics indicate that 10 of the fatal crashes occurred when vehicles went off the road and rolled. Nine people died after being ejected from their vehicle; most because they were not wearing seatbelts.

“Until you have to a respond to a scene like that, you don’t understand the devastation such crashes cause,” says Col. Craig Price, superintendent of the South Dakota Highway Patrol. “It is not only traumatic for the families, but also for the first responders who rush to the scene. If you are buckled in, you have a better chance to survive if your vehicle rolls.”

With two months left, the state’s fatality count is still behind last year’s total which was 116, the second lowest in the state’s history. With winter weather and the holidays approaching, Axdahl and Price encourage people to, among other things, slow down, don’t drink and drive, don’t get distracted by electronic devices and wear seatbelts.

“This is all about common sense,” they said. “It is about knowing that when you are driving,  the only thing you should be focused on is driving.”

2016 Traffic Fatalities Near Record Low – Lack of Seatbelt Use Significant Cause in Most Deaths

January 6, 2017

PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota’s 115 traffic fatalities in 2016 are expected to be the lowest since 2011 and second lowest since 1960.

Official numbers are not expected for several weeks, but the final number is not expected to dramatically change.  The 2016 total represents a noteworthy 14.2 percent decrease from the 134 fatalities reported in 2015.

“South Dakota is a national leader in the reduction of traffic fatalities,” says state Office of Highway Safety director Lee Axdahl, “which is particularly encouraging in a year when so many of our other states have been seeing significant increases.  Obviously, this is the direction that we want to go every year but we cannot do it without the help of our friends and family members who drive.”

The number of fatal crashes also was down – 102 in 2016 compared to 116 in 2015.

Authorities stress there is more work that needs to be done. Fatalities related to both speed and alcohol were up slightly while almost 70 percent of those who died were not wearing seatbelts.

The Highway Patrol also has been involved in that safety effort. Along with the normal enforcement and education, troopers were instructed last month to start issuing citations for any vehicle occupant not wearing a seatbelt.

“Seatbelts save lives and many people understand that,” says Col. Craig Price, superintendent of the Highway Patrol. “But we want to make sure more people buckle up all the time. That is not just drivers, but passengers as well.”

Axdahl says the Office of Highway Safety’s safe driving messages in 2017 will be directed towards high risk drivers, including teens, young adults, and rural motorists. The office also is sponsoring two safe driving commercials to air during this year’s Super Bowl.

“We are going to keep reminding the public every way we can to wear their seatbelts,” Axdahl says. “It is a very sad and heartbreaking fact that many of those who died in 2016 would still be alive today if they had just buckled up.”

The Office of Highway Safety and the Highway Patrol are part of the Department of Public Safety.