USD's KIDS COUNT Project studied the causes and possible remedies in a recent project funded by a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Statistical analysis shows several factors can significantly predict a state’s child or teen death rate resulting from motor vehicle crashes, including rural driving, alcohol abuse, teen tobacco use leading to risky behavior, a strong Young Driver Licensing (YDL) program and a significant dropout rate.

The study also shows that states with strong traffic safety laws and a strong commitment to enforce these laws have reduced their teen and child death rates from motor vehicle crashes. There are a number of proven occupant safety policies used by states to address the problem of teens and children dying as a result of motor vehicle crashes. These safety regulations are DUI/DWI laws, licensing systems for young drivers, seat belt use statutes, child restraint laws and cell phone laws.

After analyzing six states (Colorado, New York, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Washington) that reduced the number of teens or children who died as a result of motor vehicle accidents, South Dakota was found to be marginal in its policies regarding a YDL system and safety belt usage with a fair rating in DUI/DWI laws. These traffic safety ratings were provided for the study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Additional recommendations from the study include strengthening existing policies on DUI/DWI, YDL, seat belt use, child restraint laws and cell phone restrictions; expanding programs that provide technician training for installing child seats and child booster seats in low-income areas; improving rural roads; and creating consistent and comprehensive public education campaigns.

The complete report is available online at For more information, please contact South Dakota KIDS COUNT at (605) 677-5287. Housed in the Business Research Bureau at the Beacom School of Business, the mission of South Dakota KIDS COUNT is to increase awareness and promote understanding of the status of South Dakota’s vulnerable children and families through the gathering and dissemination of data.

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