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Fatal Car Accidents in South Dakota Experience a 60 Percent Increase


June 2018

The highways in South Dakota have become more deadly this year, according to a report from the South Dakota Office of Highway Safety. During the first five months of 2018, there was a 60 percent increase in the number of fatal accidents in South Dakota over the number that happened during the same time period in 2017. 

Lack of Seat Belts a Major Issue

Between Jan. 1 and May 29, there were 42 fatalities. In 32 of those crashes, seat belts could have made a difference. Among those accidents, 22 of the people who were killed were not wearing their seatbelts. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 48 percent of people in the U.S. who were killed in accidents in 2016 were not wearing seatbelts. In 2015, the NHTSA stated that while the national seat belt usage rate was 88 percent, it was just 74 percent in South Dakota. 

The South Dakota Department of Public Safety states that before 1994, South Dakota had one of the lowest rates of seat belt usage in the U.S. at 26 percent. Even though gains have been made, the state still lags far behind the national usage rate. For car occupants who are riding in the front seats of passenger cars, wearing seat belts reduces the risk of suffering fatalities by 45 percent. For people who are occupying light trucks, using seat belts decreases the risk of being killed in an accident by 60 percent, according to DPS.

South Dakota’s “Till It Clicks” Campaign

To drive awareness of the importance of using seat belts in the state, the Department of Public Safety has implemented the Till it Clicks campaign in South Dakota. The educational campaign aims to encourage South Dakota residents to always use seat belts while they are driving or riding in vehicles in the state and uses billboards, print media and a variety of different commercials. 

Starting in Dec. 2016, the South Dakota Highway Patrol began a stepped-up enforcement initiative after a directive was issued. The troopers have been issuing citations to all occupants of vehicles that are stopped who are not restrained. 

Other Factors Contributing to the Increase in Fatalities

In addition to a failure to comply with the state's seat belt usage laws, the Department of Public Safety said that excessive speeding and drunk driving were major factors in the fatal accidents that have happened this year. In April 2015, South Dakota raised its maximum speed limit from 75 miles per hour to 80 miles per hour, but the DPS states that the increase is not correlated with the increase in fatalities. However, a study by the Argus Leader of ticketing data from 2013 to 2017 found that the number of tickets that were issued for driving at excessive speeds of 100 mph or more increased from 272 to 465. 

Contact an Attorney at Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben

The car accident attorneys at Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben have helped thousands of car accident victims and their families for more than 40 years. If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury that was the fault of another driver, contact our law firm today to schedule a free consultation or call us at 612-377-777 or toll free at 1-800-752-4265.