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Fatal Crashes Double Over Last Year

February 25, 2014, 6:07 PM by Sammi Bjelland

Fatal Crashes Double Over Last Year

It's been a deadly year on South Dakota's highways and we haven't even hit March.

Fatalities have more than doubled compared to this time last year. And the state patrol wants it to stop.

The roads haven't been ideal this winter, but that's not the only factor for fatal crashes on state highways.

"Every traffic crash is kind of unique in some aspect. But they also have a lot of similarities. Such as, drinking and driving, not wearing seat belts, things like that," South Dakota Highway Patrol Captain Alan Welsh said. 

Around this time last year, there were 13 highway fatalities. So far, there have been 24 fatal crashes since January.

Welsh says there is only so much law enforcement can do to help stop these numbers from growing.

"We need more compliance obviously. It's easy for me to come up with all of these different things and say, 'This is what we need to do; this is what we need.' But ultimately this is a choice people need to make. And I think family members need to step in and help," Welsh said. 

One of the biggest issues the Highway Patrol faces is people not wearing their seat belts.  In half of the fatalities this year, people were not buckled up.

"And it's really frustrating because of those.  We go to several crashes that are non-injury crashes or minor injury crashes that are the exact same thing. But the person had their seat belt on. So on those crashes, the seat belt is definitely the difference," Welsh said. 

Welsh says a little more public awareness would go a long way in saving lives.

"I think people just need to buy into the message and understand that it's not just political correctness. There's an actual reason behind it. It is to save lives," Welsh said.

Welsh says the Highway Patrol does reach out to schools to help teach the next generation of drivers the importance of road safety.

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