Between the Lines

72 in a 55 zone. 89 in a 55 zone. 70 in a 55 zone. 70 in a 55 zone. 79 in a 55 zone. 46 in a 35 zone. 74 in a 65 zone. 44 in a 35 zone. 78 in a 65 zone. 45 in a 30 zone. 74 in a 65 zone. 65 in a 50 zone. 60 in a 50 zone. 75 in a 65 zone. 75 in a 65 zone. 75 in a 65 zone. 75 in a 65 zone. 80 in a 65 zone. 79 in a 65 zone. And, the most recent, 94 in a 65 zone.

That, in a nutshell, summarizes Kristi Noem's rather careless behavior behind the wheel in the relatively short time since the 38-year-old woman who is challenging incumbent Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin received her learner's permit as a teenager.

The above paragraph only lists her speeding offenses. It doesn't mention how Noem's lifetime driving record also includes three stop sign violations, two seat belt violations, and a citation for failing to carry her driver's license. She has also received six notices for failing to appear in court and two arrest warrants for failing to pay fines related to her tickets.

She was stopped by police earlier this year for driving 94 mph.

Noem, a mother of three and a state legislator, told KELO television that she is not proud of her driving record and that she is trying to set a better example for young drivers. She also said she is up to date on all of her fines.

And, she also sort of pooh-poohed the whole thing, as if it's really not that big of a deal.

"I just feel disheartened we're spending time talking about my poor driving record when we could be talking about the economy and jobs," she said.

Certainly, we'd like to hear those issues discussed by both Noem and Herseth Sandlin on the campaign trail. But we don't find this speeding issue to be a senseless diversion, as Noem would like us to think. Her driving record has gained traction in the last week or so because of one simple fact.

People who break the speed limit put everyone at risk.

Drivers who speed faster than surrounding traffic are nearly three times as likely to be involved in accidents as those who do not, according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Using data collected during the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's 100-car driving study, the foundation identified four specific driving behaviors that it concludes can be linked with an increased risk of being involved in a crash or near-crash. The study, which was conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, monitored the driving behaviors of 109 primary drivers and 132 secondary drivers in the Washington DC, area.

As part of the study, vehicle and electronic sensors were placed in the drivers' vehicles. The drivers then were studied over the course of the year, as researchers analyzed data on a number of driving behaviors to determine the relative risks posed by each.

In addition to the increased risks posed by speeding, the study concludes that accident risks doubled for drivers who took their eyes off the road for more than two seconds, as well as for those who exhibited "aggressive" driving behaviors.

Exceeding the legal speed limit is a problem on all roadways nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. But, on the less-forgiving rural roadways, speeding takes a deadly toll.

Fatality rates on rural roads are much higher than fatality rates on urban roads. The reasons for the dramatic difference in fatality rates on rural and urban roadways reflect several factors, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Rural roads have a higher incidence of severe crashes, including run-off-road and rollover crashes.

Rough terrain, less vehicle traffic, longer intervals between a crash and time of discovery, and lower level of available trauma care tend to make the injury outcomes for rural travelers more severe.

Noem may feel "disheartened" that all of this attention is being given to her driving record. We're a bit disheartened, too. The numerous speeding violations, the failing to appear in court, the arrest warrants — well, let's just say it's a reflection of Noem's character that leads voters to question the woman's judgement — or lack thereof.

Everyone who knows and loves Noem should also feel a sense of gratitude. She is still alive, despite her reckless behavior.

And she hasn't killed anyone — yet.

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