Checkpoints aim to cut down on drinking and driving in Pine Ridge

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PINE RIDGE, S.D. (KEVN) Oglala Sioux Tribal Law Enforcement said drunk driving is a problem on the reservation and they're committed to cracking down on DUIs.

OST Highway Safety plans DUI checkpoints

To put it in perspective, Rapid City Police made 909 DUI arrests last year. With less than half the population, Pine Ridge Police made 789 DUI arrests.

Cutting down the number is critical, so officers are running checkpoints through September 2nd at the ports of entry to the reservation as part of the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign.

Officers say 65 people were killed in accidents from 2015 through 2018. At least 60% of those every year were due to impaired driving including 85% of the 18 deaths in 2015.

"It's very important because we have a high volume of traffic accidents involving alcohol usage, unsecured occupants and just a smaller area where we have such a high number of fatalities," said Trooper Tony Long Soldier.

Dealing with those fatal accidents leaves a real impression on the officers, and they say their Lakota culture plays a part in wanting to bring the drunk driving problem to an end.

"Here, we value our Lakota traditional ways, we as a famil and it affects our family when we lose loved ones in auto accidents. To lower those numbers, that's what we're aiming for. It affects everyone when we lose a loved one to being involved in being intoxicated and especially fatalities," said Trooper Jesse Red Wing.

Captain of Highway Safety Ken Franks says increased penalties are helping. A first offense DUI conviction gets you six months probation and a $600 fine. A second offense carries a mandatory six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Possession of alcohol is illegal on the Pine Ridge Reservation.