Preliminary reports show South Dakota's "100 Days of Heat'' safe-driving campaign resulted in fewer highway fatalities than the 10-year average for the same period.

During the period from the start of the Memorial Day weekend through the end of the Labor Day weekend this year, South Dakota recorded 50 fatalities as a result of highway crashes. Statistics from the State Office of Highway Safety show that for the past 10 years, the average number of fatalities during the same period has been 61.

"Too many people are still dying and being injured in crashes on South Dakota highways,'' said Col. Craig Price, superintendent of the Highway Patrol. "However, we experienced a significant reduction this summer compared with the long-term averages, and that is encouraging. The focus of the summer-long campaign was on drunk driving, seatbelt use and speeding, major factors in a majority of our highway fatalities and injuries.

The Highway Patrol, State Office of Highway Safety and law enforcement agencies across South Dakota cooperated in the "100 Days of Heat" campaign. Because more than half of South Dakota's traffic fatalities generally happen during the summer, the education and enforcement campaign targeted the period from Memorial Day through Labor Day. That's a span of about 100 days. The campaign included law enforcement efforts, public education, public service announcements and non-traditional marketing elements.

Final numbers on total crashes and injuries during the campaign period may not be available for a number of weeks, but State Highway Safety Director Lee Axdahl said the preliminary numbers are encouraging.

"100 Days of Heat got people thinking about their driving habits, and that's a good thing for long-term highway safety,'' Axdahl said. "If we can encourage travelers to use seatbelts, follow speed laws and not drink and drive, we will improve the safety of our roads.''

 Preliminary reports show that of the 50 highway fatalities, 45 percent were alcohol-related and 16 percent were speed-related. More than half (53 percent) of the people  killed in motor vehicle crashes were not wearing seatbelts, and only one of the people killed in motorcycle crashes was wearing a helmet.

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