- Associated Press - Sunday, June 26, 2016

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - A state highway patrol squad in South Dakota has wrapped up a yearlong project aimed at reducing injury or death in areas where speeding and drunk driving have been prevalent.

The Badlands Squad of the South Dakota Highway Patrol launched the project after troopers noticed alcohol- and speed-related crashes were higher than they’d like to see in their area and decided to take action, the Argus Leader (http://argusne.ws/28X66LE) reported.

Their efforts were focused on Bennett, Stanley and Jackson counties, on Interstate 90 and highways 14 and 18.

The squad considers the project a success because no fatal crashes occurred in their target area over the past year.

“This is part of the reason we’re here,” said Lt. Jason Ketterling. “We want to reduce the number of injury and fatal crashes.”

From 2009 to 2014, the state saw between 30 and 50 alcohol-related fatal crashes and between 30 and 40 speed-related fatal crashes annually, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Ketterling said troopers were more proactive in the target area, where they increased the number of public service announcements, traffic checks, sobriety checks and saturation patrols.

Ketterling said troopers’ increased presence made roads safer in the target area.

“The idea is that the more people see us on those roads, the more likely they are to not drink and drive or speed,” he said. “These areas will continue to see presence from us.”

Ketterling said he hopes the project will spread through the state, with squads continuing to proactively enforce areas where crashes occur more often.

“It’s also an opportunity for the squad to come together and to see the results of their work,” he said. “We don’t necessarily always have tangible results so to speak. This gives them an opportunity to focus in on some problem areas. Hopefully the public noticed we were out there, as well.”

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

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