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Don’t Let Your Guard Down on Winter Roadways in South Dakota

Drew Duncan
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Partner at Zimmer, Duncan and Cole, LLP

Posted on Mar 14, 2014

In recent weeks, there has been an uptick in the number of deadly crashes taking place across South Dakota—from Sioux Falls, to Lennox, to Rapid City.

While it seems clear that the snow, ice, and cold have been a contributing factor, officials still aren’t sure exactly why the statewide number of fatal crashes has risen so sharply this winter. While the weather has been poor, it hasn’t necessarily been unusual or record-breaking. And officials say that, while alcohol use likely contributed to some wrecks, it doesn’t seem to necessarily be connected to the increase in traffic deaths.

Drivers are taught early on to be cautious in wintry weather, so why does this year’s snow seem to be responsible for so many tragedies? Lee Axdahl, director of the South Dakota Office of Public Safety, believes it may be—in part—because drivers have become less cautious about road conditions: “A lot of this is weather-related. We’ve had a few light winters, and we’ve let our guard down.”

Axdahl says that his office repeatedly found two major factors in the majority of this winter’s tragic wrecks:

  • Vehicle occupants not wearing seat belts. At least half of those killed in South Dakota traffic accidents this year did not buckle up. seat belts save lives, especially when inclement weather means there’s a high risk of accidents.
  • Drivers not being mindful of weather conditions. Winter wrecks are often caused by drivers who lose control of their vehicles, particularly if they are speeding, reckless, or otherwise driving inappropriately on slippery roads.

As we move into the much-awaited spring season, remember to buckle up and check the weather reports before you hit the road. And don’t forget to share this article with your friends and family on Facebook as a friendly reminder to always stay safe and be cautious on our South Dakota roadways.

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