Many people are hitting the road to take in one last long weekend before the summer travel season comes to a close. If you’re not careful, this could also be a dangerous few days. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Labor Day weekend is one of the deadliest times of the year in terms of drunk-driving crashes. Back in 2016, 43 percent “of nationwide crash fatalities involved drivers who had been drinking” during the holiday.
Captain Jason Husby with the South Dakota Highway Patrol says they describe Labor Day, the Fourth of July, and Memorial Day as “the big three.” There was a reason you may have noticed an increased South Dakota Highway Patrol presence Friday.
“Today was the main day for all uniformed troopers to be on the road,” Husby said. “That was a directive we put out with the agency, that hey, our staff that’s normally maybe in training division or like myself mostly in the office a lot of the times, we put it out today because we’re really trying to set the tone for the weekend, and really be visible out there, and just grab the motorists’ attention.”
If you’re hitting the road on such a high-volume travel weekend, there are a few things to keep in mind. For one, don’t forget that seatbelt.
“We also need you to drive alert, be aware that there’s going to be more traffic on the road today,” Husby said. “We’re used to driving around in moderate traffic in Sioux Falls or maybe heavy traffic, but even those rural areas in South Dakota are going to see a lot heavier traffic today. So pay attention. Drive courteous. Put your phone down.”
On Interstate 90 Friday, KELOLAND News caught up with a traveler on his way to the South Dakota State Fair in Huron.
“My wife and I, Meg, we’re both graduates, South Dakota State University, and we have a lot of friends that go to the fair, we’re in agriculture, and then our middle son is involved in showing cattle,” Brad Freking of Jackson, Minnesota said.
Friday the South Dakota Highway Patrol wasn’t just on the road, but also in the air.
“Today we did have the plane out working in the Pierre and the Huron area, and what the pilots are doing is they’re trying to support the troopers on the ground,” Husby said. “[They] may be watching a no-passing zone, or a bad intersection where we’ve had crashes, or they’re able to monitor speeds from the air with a stopwatch.”
Husby says “increased staffing” is planned for the whole weekend. South Dakota Department of Public Safety spokesman Tony Mangan tells KELOLAND News that the Highway Patrol’s plane will be in the air Saturday, too.