Summer is here, and South Dakota roads and intersections will likely see more pedestrians. With larger pickup trucks and SUVs still prevalent, law-enforcement officials urge drivers to be even more keenly aware of their surroundings.
Its smaller population means South Dakota sees fewer pedestrian fatalities compared with other states, but the Governors’ Highway Safety Association reported an 80% increase, reviewing data from 2020 to 2021.
Highway Patrol Capt. Robert Whisler said mid- to large-sized vehicles are popular in the Midwest, and their frames present unique challenges to anyone driving them.
“The height of the vehicle, and then the body lines of the vehicle, and then the cargo area of the vehicle, all add to the inability to see directly around the vehicle,” he said.
Newer models are equipped with sensors, but safety experts warn of drivers becoming too reliant on technology when navigating intersections. A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety noted that these vehicles are more likely than cars to hit pedestrians when making turns. It coincided with a sharp increase in pedestrian deaths across the nation.
Capt. Bryan Walz of the Pierre Police Department said new vehicles with all the “bells and whistles” are no replacement for a driver’s standard safety practices.
“If we just do like we used to do and make sure we look left and then look right and then look left again before we turn, or before we go through an uncontrolled intersection,” he said, “we can have that potential to avoid a collision with a pedestrian or another vehicle.”
Rapid City Police community-relations specialist Brendyn Medina said the current trends are a good reminder for pedestrians to protect themselves.
“If somebody feels that just by being in the crosswalk that they’re immediately protected from all harm, that’s not the case,” he said. “They still have due diligence, for their own safety, to look both ways, make sure that oncoming traffic sees that they’re in the crosswalk.”