2016 Traffic Fatalities Down, Not Wearing Seat Belts Lead Cause

The South Dakota Highway Patrol says fewer people are dying on South Dakota roadways. Even though the number of traffic fatalities reached one hundred and fifteen last year, it’s down compared to 2015 and the highway patrol says… it can be even lower by doing just one thing.

“Even though 2016 was a better a better year, we can call it, we had a higher number of people not wearing their seat belts so at 2016 it was at 70 percent,” says South Dakota Highway Patrol Captain Jason Husby. He says that percentage is up compared to what it was in 2015 because of one reason.

“Complacency… they’re making a quick trip… I think when people get on the interstate, there’s the perception ‘oh, we’re going to travel’, ‘it’s a high speed roadway’ and I think we see higher compliance rates on the interstate.” Says Captain Husby.

Which is why most of the fatalities last year, he says, occurred off of them.

“You’re taking, you know, Highway 11 down to Canton, for something, people are complacent with that… ‘oh it’s a back road’ but that’s where we are having the problem, is on those back roads,” explained South Dakota Highway Patrol Captain Jason Husby. “It doesn’t mean we’re not having the problem on the interstate, we’re having those as well.”

While 2016 is over and the overall fatalities dropped over 14 percent from 2015, 2016 wasn’t a quiet year. Captain Husby says that October was the month that they saw the most fatalities, something that is usually seen in August. Looking back at data as far back as 2011, Captain Husby says the reason why August typically has the most fatalities is is because it’s a travel month for those in South Dakota and in neighboring states.

While the percentage has dropped from 2015 to 2016, the South Dakota Highway Patrol is already planning on ways that they can make the number smaller.

“Anytime a trooper comes into contact with either a passenger or a driver not wearing their seat belt, it will be addressed with a citation,” explained South Dakota Highway Patrol Captain Jason Husby. He adding saying, the goal of the highway patrol isn’t to issues tickets or citations instead, it’s to educate drivers. In addition, the highway patrol will also be looking out for “high risk” drivers which, looking back at data, suggests teens, young adults as well as rural motorists.

Because Captain Husby, along with the rest of the South Dakota Highway Patrol, wants to make sure that when you get behind the wheel… you’re in control.

“That’s the one thing you can control. You can’t control the fact that somebody’s going to run a red light… you can’t control the fact that there’s ice that you didn’t see on the roadway because there’s some precipitation and it froze quickly. But you can control the seat belt.”

The year the highway patrol saw the lowest number of traffic fatalities was back in 1960; the lowest year since then was in 2011 with 111 fatalities.

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