Senator John ThuneNow that warm summer weather has arrived in South Dakota, many of us will be spending more time on the roads. Whether it is for work, visiting family and friends, or simply getting around town, South Dakotans will take to the highways, and as always, safety must be a top priority. This summer, I urge South Dakotans to always be mindful of their surroundings and to avoid distractions when driving.
As long as there have been cars on the streets, there have been car accidents. Even the most careful drivers can be involved in collisions, and factors beyond our control like ice and rain increase the likelihood of an accident. Still, personal responsibility is crucial to improving overall safety.
In 2008, there were 15,907 motor vehicle accidents in South Dakota, slightly less than the year before. Of that total, 5,708 resulted in injuries and 121 resulted in fatalities. Property damage from traffic accidents totaled $77 million dollars in 2008. All of these statistics are important reminders that driving is not without risk, and that individuals must do what they can to minimize that risk.
Of course, one of the surest ways to increase road risk is mixing drinking and driving. In 2008, nearly 30 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking, and 48 deaths occurred in South Dakota in alcohol-related crashes. Summer get-togethers are always fun, but we all have to do our part and be responsible.
Across South Dakota, state and local authorities are working hard to prevent drunk driving. Currently, 56 South Dakota counties are participating in the 24/7 Sobriety Project, which aims to minimize repeat driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses. I congratulate the authorities participating in the program for taking this step to make all South Dakotans safer.
Today's driver faces many more distractions than just a few years ago. The likelihood of a collision increases dramatically when drivers, especially younger ones, are distracted by cell phone calls and text messages. Fiddling with the radio or other electronics poses similar hazards. All drivers, particularly younger ones, should be especially careful to minimize distractions while driving.
Spending warm summer days on the highway is a South Dakota tradition. South Dakota's law enforcement personnel and highway construction crews work hard to keep drivers on the roads safe, but ultimately we all must do what we can to minimize the risk of accidents. Preventable accidents happen every day, but there is plenty we can all do to keep ourselves and everyone else on the road safe.