Traffic fatalities are a recurring headline. Hardly a day goes by when we don't read another story, hear a radio report or see the terrible images on television.
The good news is the numbers indicate a decrease of traffic fatalities in South Dakota. In 2016, there were 115 fatal vehicle crashes. That is the lowest total since 2011 and the second lowest of all time.
Of course, even with this good news, every fatal crash is a tragedy. Each traffic death is a blow to a family, to a group of friends and to a community. That's why the Office of Highway Safety tracks crash data and keeps tabs on the state's fatality rate. Highway Safety uses the numbers to identify trends and to target their messaging on safe driving.
Data reveals the tragic facts: In 2015, 60 people died in motor vehicle crashes when not wearing a seatbelt belt or safety device of any kind; another 825 unrestrained occupants were injured. That same year, distracted drivers were to blame for 1,125 crashes including six fatal crashes.
Of course, alcohol also is still a problem. In 2015, alcohol was a factor in 1,085 motor vehicles crashes in South Dakota and was a factor in 41 fatal vehicle crashes. Additionally, drivers under the age of 25 (which make up only 15 percent of all drivers) account for almost 50 percent of the crashes involving speeding and more than 30 percent of the crashes involving alcohol.
Car accidents are preventable.
Every time you get behind the wheel, you have choices. You decide whether to wear your seatbelt and whether to ask your passengers to buckle up. You decide whether to look at that text or email. You determine whether to drive home after a few drinks or to get a ride. How fast you drive, how often you pull over, what role you'll play in your kids' driver's education - these are all up to you.
There are people who love you and want you to come home safely. Practice safe driving methods for their sake and for the sake of every other driver who has kids, grandkids, a spouse, parents and friends. Let's all make good choices when we get behind the wheel.