COPS

PHOTO COURTESY JERAULD COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE 

A barely-visible, stranded vehicle is shown in the photo above, taken with the squad car camera during the New Year’s Eve blizzard that slammed Jerauld County last month.  An uptick in motorists ignoring travel warnings have caused grave concerns among local first responders. 

   

An alarming trend has emerged during recent weather events that is not only putting local motorists in harm’s way, but also threatening the safety of first responders. 

During last month’s hazardous blizzard conditions over the holidays, first responders reported a large number of assistance calls – all after “No Travel Advised” warnings were issued across the region. 

“When 'no travel' is advised, why isn't it taken seriously? Road condition warnings aim to prevent incidents from happening,” said Jerauld County Sheriff Jason Weber. “I feel caution is thrown to the wind and there is undoubtedly a false sense of security when it comes to driving in dangerous conditions. Folks have no idea what kind of fire they are playing with.”

Sheriff Weber urges motorists to check road conditions at www.safetravelusa.com/sd and on the Jerauld County Sheriff Office Facebook page.  

“During winter months, motorists must be prepared with the necessary gear to survive if they become stranded,” Weber cautioned. “After an accident, the vehicle likely won’t run and with the possibility of broken glass, motorists can count on being exposed to the elements.”

Weber said that when motorists ignore travel warnings, become stranded and call for assistance, it places first responders in an impossible situation that could have been prevented by staying off of roadways.

“When first responders experience zero visibility in storm conditions, sometimes it’s impossible to do a rescue,” Weber stated. “I’ve been on accident scenes where I could hear an oncoming vehicle but was unable to see it. It’s dangerous for motorists to be out there – and it puts the lives of first responders at risk.”

Area first responders include Jerauld County Ambulance, Wessington Springs and Alpena Fire Departments, South Dakota Highway Patrol and Jerauld County Sheriff’s Office.