Department of Public Safety urging safe travel this holiday weekend

PIERRE, S.D. (Press Release) – South Dakota’s Department of Public Safety is encouraging people who decide to travel this Memorial Day holiday weekend to be safe drivers.

Traffic is expected to be lighter than normal for this holiday weekend because of COVID-19, but state Highway Patrol troopers will still be out helping keep people safe. State Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Rick Miller says safety is always a priority, but especially this year when many people may not have driven as much lately because they stayed home due to COVID-19.

“It is important that people remember the basics of safe driving and that means to be fully engaged as drivers,” he said. “Drivers need to remember they are not the only ones on the road. They need to obey all traffic laws, watch for others, not get distracted and wear their seat belts.”

This year’s Memorial Day crash reporting period starts at 6 p.m. Friday local time and ends at 11:59 p.m. Monday local time. During the 2019 Memorial Day holiday period, there were 185 reported traffic crashes, two fatalities and 31 injuries. The two fatalities were motor vehicle drivers who were not wearing seat belts.

“The number of fatalities in motor vehicle crashes is up 27.3 percent this year compared to the same time last year; that is 28 deaths compared to 22 last year,” said Highway Safety Office director Lee Axdahl. “Sixteen of those fatalities were not wearing seatbelts while alcohol and speeding were the two biggest crash factors. Once again it is about making smart decisions that will keep you and others safe.”

There were 102 fatalities in South Dakota in 2019, the lowest total in the state’s history.

South Dakota’s deadliest Memorial Day holiday period was in 1980 when 12 people lost their lives from injuries received in five crashes.

Both the Office of Highway Safety and the Highway Patrol are part of the Department of Public Safety.