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South Dakota Vehicle Crash Reports and Data Online; Spearfish More Dangerous Than Brookings

After releasing the 2014 crime report, the state launched a new online system for accessing accident records. allows users to purchase accident records back to 2004 for $10 a pop ($4 to find the record, $6 to compensate the state for the convenience of this service). Those charges cover delivery of an actual record; the database allows free searches for accident records by vehicle ID number or by first name, last name, county, and date of accident. also includes yearly statistical reports on motor vehicle crashes back to 2005. The Department of Public Safety hasn’t posted a nice neat report on 2014 yet, but it does offer the raw data for our spreadsheet enjoyment. Some interesting observations on highway mayhem in 2014:

  1. The most dangerous hours to be on the road—i.e., the hours during which the most crashes happened—are 5 p.m. (work getting out), 3 p.m. (school getting out), and 7 a.m. (everyone headed for work and school).
  2. 46.8% of crashes happened outside city limits.
  3. 44.9% of crashes inside city limits happen within ten cities:
    City Crashes (2014) Population (2013)
    Sioux Falls 3,970 164,676
    Rapid City 1,665 70,812
    Aberdeen 419 27,333
    Watertown 407 21,995
    Mitchell 348 15,539
    Brookings 265 22,943
    Spearfish 245 11,107
    Yankton 192 14,591
    Pierre 150 13,984
    Huron 126 13,097

    Notice that Brookings ranks fourth in population but only sixth in crashes, suggesting that Brookings drivers are relatively more cautious or that I-29 and U.S. 14 pose fewer hazards as the major traffic zooms through town. Meanwhile, Spearfish ranks tenth for population but seventh for crashes, suggesting crazier drivers or more dangerous roads (I’m betting roads—think curves on I-90).

  4. Two thirds of all crashes, rural and urban, happened in ten counties:
    County Crashes (2014) Population (2014)
    Minnehaha 4,521 182,882
    Pennington 2,425 108,242
    Lincoln 828 51,548
    Brown 772 38,408
    Lawrence 658 24,657
    Brookings 629 33,314
    Codington 601 27,938
    Davison 533 19,885
    Meade 450 26,951
    Yankton 331 22,684
  5. In case there’s anyone out there still snarling, “Women drivers!” under his chauvinist breath, note that in crashes in which the sex of the driver is known, 58.17% involved male drivers. The most recent data available indicate that men make up only 50.4% of all drivers. Slow down, fellas.


  1. Nick Nemec 2015-05-04

    I’m waiting for the spreadsheet where the counties are ranked from most to least dangerous on an accident per capita basis (traffic accidents/population).

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-04

    Nick, that sounds like a lunchtime project. Stay tuned!

  3. W R Old Guy 2015-05-04

    |I wonder if the statistics for Lawrence, Meade, and Pennington Counties are affected by the Sturgis Rally. I note that Sturgis is not listed in the cities but it nearly impossible to move at more than a snail’s pace on the major streets during the rally.

  4. Craig 2015-05-04

    In case there’s anyone out there still snarling, “Women drivers!” under his chauvinist breath, note that in crashes in which the sex of the driver is known, 58.17% involved male drivers. The most recent data available indicate that men make up only 50.4% of all drivers.

    If you are basing your assumptions regarding sex purely based upon the number of drivers vs. the number of accidents, you are making a significant statistical error.

    If you’re really interested in which sex is responsible for more accidents, you cannot rely upon accident figures alone, because that is ignoring other variables. The primary variable you would need to consider would be miles driven, because without considering the actual amount of driving, you are ignoring one of the key factors.

    For instance, let’s say you have 10 male and 10 female drivers. The 10 males drive, on average, 250 miles per week each, while the 10 female drivers drive only 125 miles per week on average. This is because there are more men who drive for a living (think taxis and trucks), more males who work farther from home, fewer stay at home dads, and when it comes to the older population, far more men driving when a man and woman share a car. With this in mind, over a 5 year period, there are 5 accidents between this group of 20 drivers and 3 of them are with men, but only 2 from women. You are tempted to suggest that men are “worse” at driving because of the higher accident rate, but let’s do the math.

    10 male drivers x 250 miles driven weekly x 52 weeks x 5 years = 650,000 total miles driven
    10 female drivers x 125 miles driven weekly x 52 weeks x 5 years = 325,000 total miles driven

    With that in mind, a male driver was involved in one accident per every 217,000 miles driven, while a female driver was involved in one accident per every 162,500 miles driven. So which sex is really responsible for more (i.e. a larger share of) accidents?

    Now it goes without saying there are many other factors as well. Experience, age, the type of driving (high speed out of town vs. slower speed in-town driving), professional drivers vs. casual drivers and even the type of vehicle driven (larger vehicles tend to be more visible, while smaller vehicles tend to have decreased stopping distances etc.). Taken a step further, you may even need to examine accident reports to determine who was responsible for an accident when it involves more than one driver and if any laws were being broken. Thus, unless you neutralize for other variables, it is difficult to know if there is a statistical difference between genders, or races, or age groups.

    That said, the miles driven is one of the primary factors used to determine frequency of accidents. Because the vast majority of professional drivers are men (truck drivers, delivery drivers, taxi cab drivers etc.) it tends to skew results. Also like it or not, when a man and a woman travel together, it is much more common for the man to be driving as opposed to the woman. Sociologists can debate why that is the case, but it remains true regardless of reasoning. Thus it is safe to say men drive many more miles than women, but that alone isn’t sufficient to suggest they are “better” drivers.

    Men tend to be more confident and more deliberate behind the wheel, but they also tend to break more traffic laws, drive while under the influence of alcohol, and be more aggressive. Women tend to be more cautious and travel at lower average speeds, but they also tend to be more prone to multitasking while driving (applying lipstick, texting, tending to a child etc.).

    The studies I have read on this subject actually do indicate that when you neutralize for other variables such as age and experience that women are at the fault of more accidents per miles driven, but that men are involved in more accidents based upon sheer number due to more men being on the road (thus a statistical expectation).

    Needless to say the arguments will obviously rage on as to who is the better driver. However rather than focusing upon gender, my experience and non-scientific observations indicate that BMI may have more to do with the propensity to be involved in an accident than the gender. I’ve noticed when a person gets to be a certain size, they have difficulty turning their head to check blind spots, and their mobility (and ability to react to a situation) are hindered. I’d LOVE to see a study on this subject, because I’d put money on the fact that obesity is a greater indicator of risk than is gender, age, or experience if you exclude outliers from the pool.

  5. Les 2015-05-04

    As pilots, we men have more accidents than our sisters, but theirs are more fatal.

  6. tim johnson 2015-05-04

    The feds say the average man drives 16,550 miles a year, the average woman 10,142, across all age groups; men drive 65 percent more miles than women.
    That appears to be a larger gap than the one between number of crashes, meaning for the same miles driven, women have more crashes…
    part of that no doubt is that “professional” drivers who eat up a dispropportionate share of miles driven, tend to be men to a high degree; and tend to drive better than “amateurs” on a per-mile basis.

    An interesting form of benign sexism in your post: you seemed eager to tell the guys to slow down; I’m betting that even if you get your mind right on the crash stats showing women have/cause more, you would not hand out a similar “slow down, gals,”…..

  7. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-05-04

    Hmmm. Don’t women pay lower insurance rates than males?

    I am curious about per capita accident rates too. I think physical impairments, not temporary, must play a role too. Where is the debate about age factors too?

    Maybe I’m ranging too far afield as this post is about SD cities and counties. Sorry.

  8. John 2015-05-04

    Need age breaks in the accident data reporting. The AARP “refresher” driving training notes the accident and fatality rates for drivers over 80 far strip that of teenage drivers. We should have mandatory annual written and performance based testing of drivers who are 80 and over. The stories of their lack of performance in my family alone are apocryphal.

    And, ehm, please take note of a two-dimensional, Northwest Ordinance dogma (i.e., roads must be straight lines as section lines, only north-south or east-west). Refrain from blaming or suggesting that interstate curves lead to accidents in the absence of data, for those curves have the same design feature as that of the rest of the interstate – for sustained speeds of 85 mph. The Germans design curves in the autobahn to keep drivers alert, to minimize driver complacency. One source of fatal accidents in Lawrence County are the poorly designed and too numerous interstate exits – especially Exit 14, likely one of the most dangerous in the state and should be closed. Similarly Exit 10 was rebuilt twice in a decade yet remains dangerous for its near blind-spots and poor traffic flow. Canyon gawkers and Canyon speeders are another source.

  9. Douglas Wiken 2015-05-05

    The most fatal times for driving are late night Friday early AM Saturday with same pattern for Saturday, because at those times drunken drivers may exceed numbers of sober drivers in some SD areas. After working for SD:ASAP years ago, we almost never drive after dark on Friday or Saturday evenings.

    Vehicle miles per fatality show that interstates are much safer. Years ago when idiots in SD legislature refused to make seat belt use mandatory, I made a rough calculation that to likely save the same number of lives that near zero-cost increased seat belt usage would, SD would have to convert over 3,000 miles of two-lane highway to interstates.

    If anybody wants to seriously reduce crash fatalities and crashes, make the booze industries subsidize about half of our auto insurance costs and they will clean up their own rotten acts.

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