The Teen Driving Safety Task Force, created by the last Legislature, meets on December 15. The group is going to examine statistics on traffic citations, crashes, injuries and fatalities.
Right now, the statistics are not good for South Dakota, and there is a need to improve safety of young drivers.
"I know we all pride ourselves in South Dakota on being a good place for young people to grow up in and it is a good place in a lot of ways, except for this difficult Achilles heel," Susan Randall with the Teen Driving Safety Task Force said.
197 kids and teens have died on South Dakota roads over the last decade. During that same period, 14 to 19-year-olds represented more than eight percent of licensed drivers in the state. This same group was involved in nearly 14,700 fatal or injury crashes. In 2011, South Dakota was ranked 40th in the nation for teen deaths from car accidents.
"It's really on the heels of a lot of tragedy that we're coming together to form this task force. The picture is pretty sad in South Dakota," Randall said.
Randall said the task force will be looking at a few factors leading up to this higher than average statistic.
"We know distractions; texting can be one of them. Some of it's the amount of experience young people have when they come to driving. This is a rural state and the challenges families face. Some of it has come about because the demand of getting to school and school activities," Randall said.
These elements will help the task force compare our patterns to other states to see what types of policies and prevention might work for South Dakota. A first report will be given to the legislature next January. The goal is to use these past statistics to create a better future.
"It's not about blame, but instead it's about how can we better support young people to acquire the skills they need so they can be competent drivers and avoid these tragic consequences," Randall said.