South Dakota’s 115 traffic fatalities in 2016 are expected to be the lowest since 2011 and second lowest since 1960. The 2016 total represents a noteworthy 14.2 percent decrease from 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.”

While the numbers may be down authorities stress that there is more work to do. Fatalities related to both speed and alcohol were up slightly and almost 70 percent of those who died were not wearing seatbelts.

“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.

“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.”


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