The South Dakota Department of Public Safety says the number of traffic deaths in the state jumped 38% last year, going from 102 to 141. The number of fatal accidents also rose sharply from 88 to 132.
Public Safety Secretary Craig Price says the number of both fatalities and fatal accidents in 2019 were the lowest since record keeping began in 1947, so some increase might have been expected last year but not a jump to the highest total in 13 year.
Making things worse, traffic deaths so far this year are running at an even higher pace than last year.
Price says that as a result, the department – which includes both the Highway Patrol and the Office of Highway Safety – plans to increase its safety and enforcement efforts.
Before last year, South Dakota had the nation’s lowest 5-year average of traffic fatalities and Price hopes a new emphasis on the combination of safety messages and strong enforcement efforts make a difference.
Price says the 3 main factors associated with last year’s traffic deaths were speed, alcohol use, and failure to use seat belts – so the basic safety message is “slow down, pay attention, drive sober, and always wear a seat belt.”