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Record number of South Dakotans buckle up

PIERRE, SD - Three of every four South Dakota drivers and front-seat passengers are wearing seatbelts, a statewide survey shows.

The survey done in June showed 74.5 percent of South Dakotans used seatbelts, compared with 72.1 percent in 2009. It's the highest level of seatbelt use since the annual survey began in 2000, said Lee Axdahl, Director of the South Dakota Office of Highway Safety.

"We are pleased that a strong majority of South Dakotans are taking responsibility for their own safety and the protection of other passengers in their vehicles by choosing to use seatbelts,' Axdahl said. "It's a proven, simple act that saves lives. South Dakotans have made great progress, but we can drop the number of needless vehicle fatalities even lower if everyone makes seatbelt use part of their driving routine.'

While the majority of South Dakotans appear to be buckling up, the majority of fatalities in crashes on state roadways involve people who weren't using safety equipment. According to 2009 motor vehicle crash statistics, 71 percent of all South Dakota motor vehicle fatalities were unbelted occupants or drivers.

"That represents 79 people last year alone who might have been saved by buckling up,' Axdahl said. "That many fatalities is not so much a statistic as it is a tragedy."

Additional Seatbelt Study results:

* Urban interstate use increased from 73.8 percent in 2009 to 75.8

percent in 2010.

* Rural interstate use decreased from 83.2 percent in 2009 to 78.6

percent in 2010.

* Urban highway use increased from 64.8 percent in 2009 to 74.3

percent in 2010.

* Rural highway use increased from 67.0 percent in 2009 to 71.5

percent in 2010.

* The complete survey can be found under the Office of Highway

Safety link on the South Dakota Department of Public Safety website at .

South Dakota statewide average seatbelt use by year:

2000: 53.4 percent

2001: 63.3 percent

2002: 64.0 percent

2003: 69.9 percent

2004: 69.4 percent

2005: 68.8 percent

2006: 71.3 percent

2007: 73.0 percent

2008: 71.8 percent

2009: 72.1 percent

2010: 74.5 percent