Although South Dakota is in the top 20 largest states, it is actually in the bottom five least populous and dense states in the US. Also, it is named a Midwestern state by the US Census Bureau but its Buttes and Plains as part of the Great Plains and ranching culture make it feel more western in nature. Driving safety in the vastly rural and un-congested state is more about driving in rural areas than in the cities.
A Western Midwest State
South Dakota is one of the bottom five least populated states in the US and one of the least densely populated as well. As such, its problems for car safety deal more with its rugged back country and rural sections of the state than with congestion and urban issues.
The state is generally made up of three geographic regions and these fairly coincide with the cultural split of the state as well. The Missouri River dissects the state between east and west with the south eastern portion of the state encompassing the majority of the population of the state including the largest population center of Sioux Falls. The eastern portion of the state mainly consists of Dissected Till Plains and makes up one of the most fertile farming regions in the US and extends east into Nebraska and Iowa. The Great Plains makes up the western two-thirds of the state, except the south western corner of the state named the Black Hills area which is a mountainous area. The highest point in the US east of the Rocky Mountains is located in the Black Hills portion of the state, Harney Peak, but this low range of mountains includes peaks between 2-4000 feet. To the east of the Black Hills is an area known as the Badlands and home to the Badlands Wilderness a mix of mixed grass prairie and severely eroded Buttes.
The eastern portion of plains is flatter and receives more precipitation making it a great farming area. Whereas the western Great Plains are more rolling plains with large Buttes, flat-topped large hills that dot the landscape. However because of less precipitation the western half is more arid and dry. Most of the state is temperate grassland with varying degrees of flat to rolling hills topography. This type of landscape has been proven to be a bane to drivers on long stretches. There are little things to keep your attention in the distance and so you grow fatigued leading to more accidents.
Being safe in South Dakota also means dealing with the varying climate hazards that include being part of Tornado Alley in the south eastern portion of the state as well as blizzards and snow storms. Being a largely rural state, driving across it can bring its own hazards like ill-maintained highways and break-downs that can be far from the nearest population center. If you are driving in South Dakota, be prepared for the season, carry a working cell phone and be aware of coverage maps. Having first aid kits and winter emergency kits in your vehicle would be a smart choice as well.
Roadways in South Dakota
Driving through South Dakota needs to be done with care. Ranked as the 4th highest state for rural road fatalities makes it concerning for those driving in rural areas. With only two Interstate highways through the middle southern portion of the state east to west and north to south at the eastern border, the rest of the state is accessible by US State and State highways. With almost a $1 trillion funding gap for surface road maintenance according to the US Society of Civil Engineers, many states face a daunting task with up keeping their rural roads. To keep up with maintenance costs South Dakota is one state that is converting previously paved roads to gravel roads to save on paving costs.
If you are driving rural routes and roads in South Dakota, not only do you have to contend with the natural geography and climate dangers of the area, but the roads can often cause breakdowns from rough road surfaces. Be safe, know your route and stick to major roads and highways when at all possible.
Unique Insurance System
South Dakota is the only insurance system in the US to use an “almost” pure comparative fault system defined by the term slightly at fault to determine damage awards. If you are only slightly at fault you can in fact recover damage awards, reduced by the same fault percentage you are assigned by a jury or judge. However, if you are more than ‘slightly’ at fault you will not be eligible to recover expenses in relation to an accident that you share blame in.
South Dakota is a mandatory insurance state and is in the bottom ten states for least amount of uninsured drivers. If you want to be safe in the state however, carrying Uninsured and Underinsured coverage can help ensure if you are involved in an accident that you are adequately insured.
DUI charges under 0.05%
In South Dakota you can be charged with DUI even if you are under the national limit of 0.08%. Between 0.05-0.08% you can be charged with DUI if the enforcement officer feels that your ability to operate a vehicle safely is impaired. Car safety in the state also means avoiding your vehicle altogether. You can even be charged with DUI for simply sitting in your vehicle with the keys in the ignition with the vehicle turned off. Do not drink and drive or even ‘sleep it off’ in your vehicle in South Dakota.
Demerit Point System
The South Dakota DMV does track traffic violations, so be sure that you know where your current point totals are. At 12 points in twelve months and 22 points in 24 months you license can be suspended. Without an option to lower your points through a defensive or driving education course you may be waiting for the points to be removed for years.
Did You Know That…
1. Bob Barker is from South Dakota, of the Price is Right fame.
2. South Dakota has more shoreline than Florida.
3. You can drive unsupervised at just 14 years and 3 months old, one of the youngest ages allowed in the US in South Dakota.
4. Belle Fourche, SD is the geographic center of the US.
5. A full operator license is available to drivers at 16 years old.
6. Mount Rushmore took 14 years to build but only cost $1 million.
7. South Dakota has an implied consent law where if you refuse DUI testing you will have your license suspended for a year.
8. It was named after the Lakota and Dakota Sioux Native American tribes.
9. There is a 10 year lookback period for DUIs in South Dakota.
10. One of the most complete T-Rex fossil skeletons in the world was excavated from the Badlands in South Dakota.