Twenty-four people have died in crashes on South Dakota highways during the first two months of 2014, and highway safety officials say half of the victims were not wearing seatbelts.
A year ago on this date, 13 highway fatalities had been recorded in the state.
"The unnecessary death of a family member or friend is heart-breaking,'' Highway Safety director Lee Axdahl said. "It is difficult to accept the fact that some people still get behind the wheel and don't take the simple precaution of buckling up.''
While frequent snowfalls have created temporary road conditions that may have contributed to some fatal and injury crashes in January and February, 12 of the 24 victims in the crashes this year were not wearing seatbelts, Axdahl said.
Axdahl said alcohol and speeding or overdriving road conditions in bad weather also contributed to several of the recent crashes.
"The alarming number of fatalities on the roads already this year tells me we must continue to send strong messages that everyone on the road needs to make smart choices for the safety of all of us,'' he said. "That means not drinking and driving, obeying speed limits, always wearing seatbelts and treating the task of driving a vehicle as the most important job you have.''
With the frequent snowfalls, motorists should adjust their driving to the current weather and road condition, Axdahl said.