South Dakotans Continue To Drink And Drive
Despite sobriety checkpoints, anti-drinking and driving campaigns, and hundreds of alcohol-related fatalities, law enforcement officials say people in the state continue to operate motor vehicles while under the influence of alcohol.
Officials say planning ahead can help keep South Dakota roads safe and help motorists keep their driving records clean.
While DUI arrest numbers vary across South Dakota, last year Rapid City police officers arrested 965 people for driving under the influence of alcohol. That’s nearly three people each day.
Lieutenant Elias Diaz is with the Rapid City Police Department’s traffic unit where DUI enforcement is a major component.
Diaz says his department combats drunk driving in part by conducting sobriety checkpoints, deploying specialized units, sending out press releases, and posting alerts on social media.
Despite this, he says, South Dakotans continue to drink alcohol and get behind the wheel.
“And here’s where a lot of drivers get caught up in the moment and they may go out with friends, maybe even sometimes not even planning on having a drink, but they find themselves out, and they find themselves enjoying one, enjoying two, two becomes three, three becomes four,” says Diaz.
The South Dakota Department of Safety reports that more than six-hundred people were injured on South Dakota roads back in 2013 as a result of alcohol-related crashes. Forty-two people died.
Diaz says this is why it’s important to plan ahead - designate a sober driver or arrange for a ride ahead of time.
Diaz says his officers are committed to keeping drunk drivers off the road.
After all, he says, DUI charges and alcohol-related fatalities are preventable. He says it’s a matter of voluntary compliance.
“We would much prefer to not have to force this issue. We would much prefer if the person, just of their own accord, made responsible decisions, and said, you know, for the good of this community and for the good of myself, and anybody that I may harm on the way, I’m just going to make the right choice. I’m just going to be smart,” says Diaz.
In comparison with Rapid City’s 965 DUI arrests in 2014 – the Sioux Falls PD made 1,107 arrests. Pierre reported 136.
The South Dakota Department of Public Safety’s alcohol related-fatality statistics for 2014 are not yet available.