SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A dark two-lane road in rural South Dakota can be a dangerous place for a pedestrian, according to various traffic safety studies and traffic data in the U.S.
Increases in pedestrian fatalities are occurring largely at night. From 2009 to 2018, the number of
nighttime pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. increased by 67%, compared to a 16% increase in daytime pedestrian fatalities, according to the Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA).
About 75% of pedestrian fatalities occur after dark, according to the GHSA. The increase in nighttime fatalities comes as pedestrian fatalities are increasing in the U.S. The U.S. had 4,100 pedestrian fatalities in 2009 and 6,283 in 2019.
While South Dakota had a decrease in pedestrian crash fatalities from 11 in 2018 to eight in 2019, according to the state Department of Public Safety, pedestrian crash fatalities increased in 30 states. From 2009 to 2018, pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. increased by 53% while all other traffic deaths increased by 2%, according to the GHSA.
South Dakota’s most recent pedestrian fatality happened on Saturday, Sept. 12.
Joe Boever of Highmore was killed when he was hit by car driven by South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, the South Dakota Department of Public Safety said. The crash happened at about 10:30 p.m. on U.S. Highway 14, about one mile west of the intersection with South Dakota Highway 47 near Highmore, the DPS said. Highways 47 and 14 intersect in Highmore.
Family members said Boever was apparently returning to his pickup, which had run into the ditch earlier that night along U.S. Highway 14, when he was struck and killed.
The South Dakota Highway Patrol is investigating the crash and some details were provided during a news briefing on Sept. 15. Craig Price, the secretary of the DPS, said the highway patrol is using a third-party, out-of-state crash reconstruction expert to help in the investigation.
Price said he could not release certain details because the crash is under investigation.
The two-lane highway would have been dark at 10:30 p.m. A two-lane highway in a rural area is also one of the most dangerous places in South Dakota when it comes to fatal traffic crashes, according to the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.
According to the state’s DOT Highway Safety Plan for FY2020, 91.1% (112) of 2018 traffic crash fatalities occurred on rural roadways.
While most pedestrian fatalities happen in urban areas, the GHSA study shows that most pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. happen at non-intersections on non-freeway roads as opposed to residential and downtown streets. Crosswalks, intersections and similar areas are most often the site of collisions and injuries to pedestrians, according to the National Transportation Safety Administration.
About 10% of all pedestrian fatalities happen in spots such as roadsides/shoulders, parking lanes/ zones, bicycle lanes, sidewalks, medians/crossing islands, driveway accesses, shared-use paths/trails, non-traffic way areas and other sites, according to a 2016 study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
Two of the eight 2019 pedestrian deaths and 17 injuries in South Dakota happened on rural roads, according to the South Dakota Department of Transportation. The other six deaths and 115 injuries were in cities.
It is not known if Boever was walking on the highway’s shoulder or in a traffic lane on Sept. 12. The DPS has not shared details about the type of clothing Boever was wearing.
“Studies have shown that pedestrians walking along a road in dark clothing at night are first seen approximately 55 feet away giving the driver less than one second of reaction time,” according to a report from Cornell University Extension Education. “A driver travelling at 60 mph needs over 260 feet to stop,” the Cornell report said.
The NHTSA said there is a 90% of being killed for a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 58 miles per hour. There is a 50% chance of being killed if hit by a vehicle traveling at 42 mph.
The speed limit on U.S. Highway 14 is 45 mph through Highmore. The crash happened within the 45 mph speed zone, almost exactly at city limits. The speed limit changes to 65 mph farther west on the highway.
The DPS and other state officials have no provided information on any estimated speed of Ravnsborg’s vehicle during the crash.
|0-4 years old||0|
|5-13 years old||1|
|14-19 years old||0|
|20-24 years old||1|
|25-34 years old||2|
|35-44 years old||2|
|45-54 years old||0|
|55-64 years old||0|
|65 years old and over||2|
While the increase in pedestrian fatalities has prompted research on safety and recommendations to improve safety conditions at intersections and along roads, much of the attention appears to be in urban areas where the most fatalities happen.
U.S. Highway 14 is a two-lane federal highway.
The average shoulder width of a two-lane road is four feet, Andy Vandel, a highway safety traffic engineer with the South Dakota DOT, said in KELOLAND News story on Jan. 30.
Depending on the traffic count, the ultimate paved shoulder width for a reconstructed or newly constructed two-lane road should be six or eight feet, according to the state’s road design manual. The higher the traffic count, the wider the shoulder.
The SDDOT standard lane width for reconstruction or construction of a two-lane rural highway is 12 feet, according to the state’s road design manual.
Alcohol was a factor in 48% of the traffic crashes that resulted in pedestrian fatalities in 2016, according to the NHSTA.
The 2019 study by the GHSA said an estimated 33% of fatal pedestrian crashes involved a pedestrian with a BAC of 0.08% or higher, and an estimated 16% of drivers involved in these crashes had a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
With the eight pedestrian fatalities in South Dakota in 2019, there was not alcohol involvement by the pedestrians in any of those fatalities, according to the DPS. One-hundred-thirty pedestrians were injured in crashes in 2019. Of those, 27 had alcohol or drug involvement by the pedestrian.
Note: KELOLAND Capitol Reporter Bob Mercer contributed to this story.