- Associated Press - Saturday, July 18, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Officials in North Dakota and South Dakota are cautioning drivers to be safe on the roads as both states have seen a high number of fatalities this summer already.

Two more people in South Dakota died Friday in car crashes, bringing the state’s death toll for July to 19. Office of Highway Safety Director Lee Axdahl said this week that in the majority of crashes South Dakota has seen so far in July, alcohol and speed were believed to be factors.

“Unfortunately, those factors always seem to be part of most fatalities,” he said. “We know vehicle crashes can happen in an instant for a variety of reasons. But doing things such as not drinking and driving, slowing down and wearing your seat belt increases the chances of you and your passengers staying alive.”

Last year, there were seven deaths on the road in the first 13 days of July in South Dakota. This year, there were 16 in the first 14 days.

“Too many family members and friends are grieving right now over unnecessary and fresh tragedies,” Axdahl said in a statement. “That doesn’t include the emotional burdens felt first by responders, including law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics and others who witness the horrible scenes at those crashes.”

In North Dakota, the state Department of Transportation told KXMC-TV that 68 people have died on the road so far this year, which is 13 more than at this time last year. So far, seven people have died in July.

Captain Eric Pederson cited the same factors that North Dakota sees in most of its deadly crashes. He said seatbelt laws and the presence of law enforcement helps to keep people safe.

“You constantly see people seeing us, reaching over and putting on their seat belt,” he said. “So, nobody likes getting a ticket but that deterrent effect does save lives,” he said.

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