DPS: Safe Driving is a priority this Memorial Day weekend

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 because of COVID-19, but state Highway Patrol troopers will still be out helping keep people safe.

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.

Miller says drivers need to remember the basics of safe driving and that means to be fully engaged as drivers. He says obey all traffic laws, watch for others, don’t get distracted and wear your seat belt.

Office of Highway Safety director Lee Axdahl says the number of fatalities in motor vehicle crashes is up 27.3% this year compared to the same time last year; 28 deaths compared to 22 last year. He says 16 of those fatalities were not wearing seatbelts and alcohol and speeding were the two biggest crash factors.

This year’s Memorial Day crash reporting period starts at 6pm local time today (Fri.) and ends at 11:59pm local time Monday. 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.

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.