In 2006, 191 individuals died in site visitors crashes in South Dakota. Ever since, fatalities have been trending downward, with 102 reported in 2019 — the bottom complete since 1947.
That’s, till final 12 months.
The pandemic stored extra individuals at dwelling in 2020, but South Dakota recorded the very best site visitors fatality price since 2006, with 141 deaths reported on state roadways.
Throughout the late spring and early summer time months, home-office work was excessive. Although the state did not shut down, many companies selected to. Holidays have been canceled and journey might have been down, however the actual reply to why site visitors fatalities rose for the primary time in additional than a decade stays unclear.
“It’s at all times exhausting to say from year-to-year why these numbers elevated,” mentioned Amanda Hossel, the Workplace of Freeway Security director. “We’re seeing constant contributing elements that embody dashing, impaired driving, after which not sporting a seat belt. There actually aren’t any outliers.”
Alcohol-related crashes improve 11% in 2020
In 2020, alcohol performed a contributing consider 36% of deadly crashes on the roadways. That’s near an 11% rise from 2019 information.
“Clearly now we have had a difficult 12 months because of the pandemic,” mentioned Shawn Steward, Supervisor of Public and Authorities Affairs with AAA Insurance coverage. “Lots of people turned to alcohol to deal with uncertainty, stress, job losses, you title it. If extra individuals are consuming, there’s likelihood extra individuals are driving after ingesting.”
In line with a research carried out by Community Open, alcoholic consumption amongst adults within the nation elevated 14% from 2019 to 2020. The research acknowledges that alcohol is a available choice and is marketed as a approach to deal with stress and might result in that improve in consumption.
Although the variety of fatalities involving alcohol elevated from 2019, the general price is on par or decrease than many earlier years. In 2018, 42% of crash fatalities attributed to alcohol. In 2009, that quantity was 47%.
Fewer people on roadways
Beginning in May of every year, the South Dakota Department of Transportation starts tallying traffic on interstates, city and rural roads in the state.
The department tracks about 6,500 roadways at times on a 24-hour schedule throughout the year. Including 50 sites counted 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
A Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) report for 2020 is still being finalized, but early indications show that number is 2% lower than previous years, DOT Traffic Studies Specialists Jeff Brosz said.
Brosz added because of the rise in population and visitors to the state, the miles usually see a consistent 2% rise every year.
What this shows is people seem to be behaving differently behind the wheel and not taking full precautions, Steward said.
“Seems people were just not exhibiting the most careful driving behaviors,” he said. “It is hard to say why people have chosen to behave differently this year, but that is what we are seeing.”
It is hard to quantify if there was a big outlier in the 2020 data compared to previous years, Steward said. All contributing factors to fatal accidents saw some form of increase.
Speed-related fatalities went up around 4% and lack of seat belt usage accounted for 62.5% of car fatalities on South Dakota roadways, according to the DPS.
Fatalities involving motorcycles increased by 13 to 27 in 2020, the highest total since 2015 (31).
What is being done about it?
Whether it is impaired driving, speeding or distracted driving habits, public safety officials say they try to get safe driving messages across.
The biggest impacts on roadways always tend to be the lack of seat belt usage, speeding and alcoholic consumption.
“We continue to use media campaigns to stress those safety messages,” Hossel said. “We partner with law enforcement agencies and community groups interested in improving driving behavior to reduce serious injury and fatalities.”
Hossel said one message has always remained the same, “Be alert. Be a responsible driver.”