Highway fatalities in South Dakota are up slightly this year after a 20 percent drop in 2011, state Department of Public Safety officials say.
So far in 2012, 125 people have died in automobile accidents, department spokesman Terry Woster told the Argus Leader.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show that 111 people in South Dakota died in highway crashes last year, compared with 140 in 2010.
Highway Safety director Lee Axdahl said that despite this year’s slight uptick, the numbers reflect how far the state has come with highway safety.
“Even so, 111 fatalities are too many,” Axdahl said by email. “Each of those deaths represents a person no longer with us, and a number of family members and friends who grieve the loss. We must continue to try to do better.”
Deaths from motorcycle crashes were cut in half, and state surveys show that about three-quarters of South Dakotans are buckling up, Axdahl said.
Highway deaths across the nation last year fell to 32,367, marking the lowest level since 1949. The declining fatality rate is part of a decades-long trend in highway safety as cars generally become safer and seat-belt use increases.
Last year’s drop can also be attributed to Americans driving fewer miles than in 2010. But the national administration also reported the lowest fatality rate ever recorded: 1.10 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.