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Not wearing seat belts blamed in high number of fall SD highway deaths

PIERRE, S.D. – Lack of seatbelt use was a factor in a high number of fatal crashes in South Dakota in September through early November, said South Dakota Department of Public Safety officials.

After 29 vehicle fatalities in the last two months, officials are again stressing the need for driver and passenger safety.  Preliminary numbers include 15 fatalities in September and 14 in October. So far in November, there have been three confirmed fatalities statewide.

Motor vehicle crashes accounted for 23 of the fatalities while the other six involved motorcycles or pedestrians. Of the 23 motor vehicle fatalities, 16 were not wearing seatbelts.

“Too many fatalities, too many families grieving,” says Office of Highway Safety Director Lee Axdahl. “Many of these fatal crashes didn’t have to happen if people paid attention to driving and most importantly wore seatbelts. It is about protecting you and others.”

Statistics indicate that 10 of the fatal crashes occurred when vehicles went off the road and rolled. Nine people died after being ejected from their vehicle; most because they were not wearing seatbelts.

Despite the tough fall, with two months left, the state’s fatality count is still behind last year’s total which was 116, the second lowest in the state’s history.  So far there have been 98 fatalities, compared to 105 last year at this time, a decline of 6.7 percent.