While most states saw a drop in vehicular accidents in 2020, the reverse was true for South Dakota. The state recorded a dramatic rise in car accidents, resulting in a 50 percent increase in car-related fatalities. Road safety is critical in South Dakota, and accidental car crashes aren’t the only things to look out for.
The journey to Mount Rushmore crosses Iron Mountain Road (16A). The route features a scenic drive that showcases the Black Hills and Mt. Rushmore. With over 300 dangerously sharp curves and long inclined stretches, the journey to see the historical presidents requires precise driving skills and utmost concentration. The route is perilous during the summer, as tourists flock to see the monuments.
Around 3 million tourists drive through Iron Mountain Road to catch a glimpse of the past presidents. Cars parked on the curbs can be quite common, as tourists top to take photos or selfies. More than a few drivers treat the winding roads as a showcase of their driving skills, treating the route as a racetrack and passing cars as they speed along.
While some stretches of the Iron Mountain Road close during the winter for safety reasons, Interstate 90 is always open. The freeway that stretches from Boston to Seattle is considered the deadliest highway in South Dakota, particularly during winters. Close to 30 inches of snow pile up on the highway each year, eventually becoming slush or black ice. Unwary drivers can miss the signs of a frozen road and blindly speed on the dangerous terrain. Often, weather changes, closures, and alerts are aired on local television and radio, but out-of-state drivers passing through will often miss the warnings.
The various forms of wildlife are the stars in Custer State Park. Its 18-mile Wildlife Loop draws big crowds who are eager to see bison, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, pronghorns, coyotes, prairie dogs, as well as the numerous species of birds that make their home in the park.
Unfortunately, the same wildlife that draws visitors to the park can also be the leading cause of accidents in the area. Deer have been known to cross the path of unlucky motorists. Reports of bison charging vehicles are quite numerous. It has forced the park to submit warnings and guidelines to visitors, urging them to stay in their vehicles when herds of bison are nearby.
Car accidents are fairly common. However, some of them are actually planned. Car scammers who stage accidents often target new cars, rentals, or commercial vehicles. Women, seniors, and tourists coming from Rapid City are often targeted, and a simple bump can earn them a trip to the chiropractor’s clinic due to whiplash. The most common scam involves vehicles that will overtake an unwary driver before sudden braking.
The distracted or unprepared driver won’t have enough time to stop their vehicle, and a rear-end collision occurs. Law enforcement is more likely to blame the tailing driver in these situations, forcing the hapless victim to cover insurance costs and then piling on bogus injuries and other complications to inflate the costs. A proper record of the incident can set records straight, so opt for a dashboard camera to avoid fraudulent claims.
Cases of drunk driving are fairly rare in South Dakota (compared to most states), and so are DUI-related accidents. State troopers can get overzealous in keeping the roads safe, sometimes chasing down “potential” drunk drivers. There have been reports of over-eager cops flagging down vehicles simply because they spot the driver previously exiting a bar or similar establishment. A DUI stoppage requires observable actions such as swerving or driving haphazardly. A dashcam that records your time behind the wheel and on the road can provide irrefutable proof of whether or not a stop was warranted.
Skin cancer and melanomas are growing problems in South Dakota, so much so that local authorities implemented the Worksite UV Protection Model Policy. The project aims to inform workers about the risk of ultraviolet radiation or UV exposure and how to protect themselves.
However, the program fails to consider the UV exposure incurred during the drive to work. A 15-30 minute drive to and from work each day is enough to accumulate UV damage that can eventually lead to skin cancer or melanomas. A layer of UV-film on your car windows can filter 99 percent of UV light, making your daily commutes safer.
Car safety in South Dakota requires more than just driving skills. Learn to read the lay of the land and your fellow drivers and take steps to ensure your safety while inside your vehicle.