The Department of Public Safety announced Wednesday that South Dakota’s highways were 38% deadlier in 2020 than they were in 2019. 141 people died last year in 132 fatal crashes, compared with 102 people killed in 88 fatal crashes in 2019. DPS says 2019 was a record low year for crashes, so the apparent jump in 2020 is as much an artifact of remarkably safer driving in 2019 as of remarkably reckless driving in 2020.
Killer Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg accounted for 2.6% of the increase in people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2020. Maybe we can bring that number back down by taking away Jason’s driver’s license.
I’d have thought that the pandemic would have led to less driving and fewer deadly crashes. We did drive less, but it appears the recklessness that kept knuckleheads like Jason Ravnsborg on the road during a pandemic correlates with a willingness to take other deadly risks:
A new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) projects that the U.S. pedestrian fatality rate rose 20% in the first six months of 2020 as speeding, distracted and impaired driving, and other dangerous driving behaviors increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
GHSA’s annual Spotlight on Highway Safety offers the first comprehensive look at state and national trends in 2020 pedestrian traffic deaths, based on preliminary data provided by State Highway Safety Offices in all 50 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.). The analysis found that from January through June 2020, 2,957 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle crashes – six more than the same period in 2019. Factoring in a 16.5% reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) nationwide, the rate of drivers striking and killing pedestrians jumped to 2.2 deaths per billion VMT, a significant and unsettling increase from 1.8 deaths the year before [Governors Highway Safety Association, press release, 2021.03.23].
There aren’t that many pedestrian fatalities in South Dakota, so solid comparisons to national danger levels are difficult. To the extent we dare make such comparisons, our pedestrian fatality rate relative to population is notably below the national average… perhaps because South Dakota’s walkability, even in our big towns, is so relatively bad even in our sizable towns that far fewer people feel capable of or comfortable walking to where they want to go and giving Killer Jason a target-richer environment.