With sites like Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park and The Badlands, South Dakota is teeming with history and scenery. But watch out: a 2012 State Farm study found that South Dakota drivers have a 1 in 74 chance of hitting a deer with their car, one of the highest rates in the country. Read up on car insurance in South Dakota so you'll be ready for whatever comes your way.
South Dakota Vehicle Insurance Requirements
The sparsely populated state is home to the sixth-smallest insurance market in the country, and premiums have remained low. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the average South Dakotan pays $581 every year, the third lowest rate in the country. One reason for bargain prices is that insurers in the state offer 13 types of discounts, including deals for good student drivers and cars with safety features.
Drunk driving is a particular concern to state officials (and another reason to have car insurance). A recent survey shows that one out of every five South Dakota high school students have been in a vehicle with a drunk driver in the last year, according to Amanda Hossle of the South Dakota Office of Highway Safety. Besides funding a program to raise student's awareness of that risk, the state has set aside $150,000 to pay for police overtime in conducting sobriety checkpoints year-round.
Who Needs Vehicle Insurance in South Dakota?
If you register and drive a vehicle in South Dakota, it must be insured. If you have an inoperable car that's stored on your private property, you don't have to insure it unless it's registered. You don't have to register off-highway vehicles (like a tractor), either.
Proof of Insurance
If you have insurance, you need to carry your insurance card in the car at all times. Your card should have your insurance company's name, your policy number and the dates of coverage. You'll need to show it when:
- A police or another law enforcement officer asks for it
- You renew your vehicle registration
- You are in a collision
If you don't want to carry a card, South Dakota allows drivers to carry proof of insurance on a smartphone.
Minimum Car Insurance Requirements in South Dakota
South Dakota requires that you carry this minimum auto coverage:
- Liability coverage for death or injury to one person: $25,000
- Liability coverage for death or injury to more than one person: $50,000
- Liability coverage for property damage: $25,000
- Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage: 25/50 (in thousands)
The insurance industry and consumer groups recommend that if you can afford it, your should buy get more liability insurance than the state minimums (See: How Much Car Insurance Coverage Do I Need? below).
While most drivers purchase auto insurance to cover their car, the state allows you to prove that you could pay for an accident in lieu of getting insurance through:
- A surety bond with the state
- Self-insurance if you own a business with 26 cars or more for business
- A $50,000 Certificate of Deposit to the state
These alternatives require significant cash reserves. You can also lose it with one accident, so most people elect insurance.
What Happens If You Drive Without Car Insurance in South Dakota?
If you are found and convicted of driving without auto insurance in South Dakota, you may be subject to a class two misdemeanor, with a fine up to $500 and up to 30 days of jail time. The state may also suspend your license for 30 days to one year and suspend registration until you get insurance. You will also need to file an SR22.
An SR22 filing is essentially a form that needs to be filed any time your driver's license has been suspended. This occurs most often because of DUI convictions, but an SR22 can be required if you lose your license for the following other reasons:
- Failure to have auto insurance
- Failure to pay a court judgment
- Two reckless driving convictions within one year
- A conviction of vehicular manslaughter
- A DUI (a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs)
How Much Vehicle Insurance Do You Need?
Individual needs vary, but the Insurance Information Institute advises drivers to carry liability coverage of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident, which is well above the minimum in the state.
South Dakota Lack Vehicle Insurance? 7.8% National Average: 12.6 %
South Dakota ranks fifth in the country in the number of deer-related accidents, which may be reason enough to carry comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive insurance covers accidents involving wild animals, as well as other non-traffic events beyond your control, such as weather, fire, theft, vandalism or natural disasters like a flood or tornado. If you take out a car loan, your lender will usually require that you get comprehensive insurance as well.
You may also want to consider collision insurance, which pays for auto repairs or replacement if you're in an accident. (See MoneyGeek guide to car insurance for more information.)
Teen Drivers in South Dakota
In 2011, 16- and 17-year-old drivers represented 2.7 percent of all drivers in South Dakota but account for almost 6 percent of crashes. The state has continued to maintain a detailed, graduated license plan for teens that has successfully reduced the number of teen incidents since 2000 by 40 percent. Teens must have auto insurance for an instruction permit, and you can usually get discounts for bundling their insurance as part of the family insurance.
Students with a B average and above also qualify for discounts at some companies.
How a Teen Driver Affects Your South Dakota Car Insurance
Median annual price change for families with a teen driver on their policy:$1,180 increase This is a difference of 85%.
Average annual premium increase if a teen gets a speeding ticket for driving 11 to 15 mph over the speed limit:
Driver Discounts for South Dakota Teens
Impact on annual premium with Good Student and Defensive Driving discounts:$175 saved
Auto Insurance Premiums from South Dakota Insurance Providers
Shop around for the best bargains. Check out the annual average premiums for a married couple with a 16-year-old teen driver in South Dakota:
|Farmers Mutual of Nebraska||$1,876||$3,520||$8,608|
How Your Teen's Car Can Affect Your South Dakota Auto Insurance Premium
Sports cars are a more risky choice for teens than sedans and minivans, and they cost a lot more to insure.
Average premium for two 2014
Average premium for two 2008
Town and Country Limiteds
Annual benefit of minivans:
College Students in South Dakota
Most companies offer a distant student discount for college students who are 23 years and younger and who go to school at least 100 miles away from home and don't regularly use the covered car.
College vs. High School Drivers in South Dakota
Median annual premium change with a college student vs. high school driver$596 decrease This is a decrease of 20%.
Annual Premiums for South Dakota Insurance Providers
Each year, take a look at your policy before it renews to see whether you could get a better deal. Here are the average premiums for a married couple with a 19-year-old college student in South Dakota.
|Farmers Mutual of Nebraska||$1,534||$2,698||$5,494|
Distance Discount for South Dakota College Students
You may realize a modest savings in your family's premium if your student moves 150+ miles away from home.
Average premium for a 19-year-old male
- $2,552 at home
- $2,226 at school
- $326 in savings
Average premium for a 19-year-old female
- $2,261 at home
- $2,040 at school
- $221 in savings
South Dakota College Drivers: Mustangs vs. Minivans
A college student driving a minivan costs less to insure than if he or she drives a sports car, since insurers associate sports cars with speeding.
2014 Mustang GTs (2)$2,935
2008 Town and Country Limited minivans (2)$1,906
Annual benefit of minivans
Military Drivers in South Dakota
South Dakota requires all motor vehicle owners to carry insurance. Lenders may also require extra coverage to insure the value of the vehicle. If you're a veteran or one of the 3,400 active-duty military living in the Mount Rushmore State, ask prospective insurance companies if they offer a military discount. Most of the large carriers will offer a reduced rate for military members and vets, and several companies work exclusively with these groups. If you won't be driving for an extended period, such as during deployment, some insurance companies will put your coverage on hold until your return. Buying more than one policy from the same company, such as auto and life insurance, may lead to additional discounts.
The minimum coverage required in South Dakota is outlined here by the State Department of Labor and Regulation, although you may have to go beyond the basics to cover a new vehicle that is leased or purchased so you'll have adequate protection.
With proof of insurance in-hand, service members stationed out of state can renew vehicle registration online or by mail. You'll need to provide the insurance policy number to register a vehicle in South Dakota, which conducts an automatic computer check to verify coverage.
South Dakota Service Members:
How Vehicle Choice Affects Your Premium
Rollover crashes are more common among SUVs and pickups, but according to our research, an older model SUV has less impact on your premium than a recent model sports car.
Military Drivers: A Comparison of Premium Ranges by Driver Age and Vehicle
Age Savings for South Dakota
Median auto insurance
for service members:
Compare Average Premiums Available to South Dakota Military Personnel
When buying car insurance, it really pays to shop around. Check out the average annual rates you can get in South Dakota.
Seniors in South Dakota
Like the rest of the country, South Dakota's population is getting older. According to a report by the state legislator, in 2010 14.4 percent of the state's population were over 65 years of age. By 2030 the U.S. Census Bureau estimates those 65 years and older will make up 23.1 percent of the state's population—a 60 percent increase. These older drivers don't drive as much as those under 65, but they have a higher rate of crashes per mile driven than any other age group.
Special driving courses such as AARP's older driver safety course provide drivers with information that is especially pertinent to adults over 50, such as the effects of medication on driving and how to adjust one's driving to compensate for some of the effects of aging. Taking the course may also qualify you for further mature driver discounts.
Undocumented Workers in South Dakota
Young immigrants who arrived in the country before age 16 and are younger than 31, among other qualifications, may apply for work permits and driver's licenses through the federal Deferred Action for Children Arrivals (DACA) program.
Ridesharing Insurance: Are You Covered?
Uber, Lyft and other "ridesharing" companies that use mobile technology to connect passengers to drivers have recruited drivers in South Dakota, but they're not operating there yet. Part of the reason is that Sioux Falls, which has cleared Uber to operate in the city, says it will have to follow the same rules as taxi companies — including paying sales tax. Uber has responded that it can't operate under those conditions.
If you're thinking of driving for Uber, check with your insurance agent to make sure you're covered. Although insurance from ridesharing companies generally provide contingent liability coverage, some of the insurance may not kick in until the driver picks up a fare. And personal policies usually don't cover commercial drivers, so you may need to get commercial insurance.
Car Accidents: How to File a Claim
If you are involved in an auto accident in South Dakota, you are required to stop and exchange information with the other driver. The South Dakota Department of Public Safety advises you to:
- Report the accident to the police if injury or property damage is $1,000 or more to the property of one party, or $2,000 collectively.
- Call your insurance company.
- Exchange your license, registration and insurance information with the other driver.
- If you have hit a parked car, the same rules apply. Leave your contact information at the parked car if you have to leave.
- Take pictures, if possible; this may help you with your insurance claim.
- Take down the contact information of any witnesses, even if you don't think you'll need one.
Best and Worst States for Driver Safety: How Does South Dakota Rank?
Sioux Falls is one of the safest driving cities in the country, but the state as a whole is riskier. The fatality rate per 100 million miles driven is nearly 40 percent higher than the national average.
One problem: South Dakota's rate of seat belt use is consistently below the national average, according to Hossle of the Office of Highway Safety. In 2012, she says 58 drivers and passengers were killed while being thrown inside the car or out of the vehicle. The office is enforcing seat belt laws and promoting a new campaign, "Buckle Up, Game On," to increase seat belt use, she says. South Dakota has also earmarked more than $300,000 to combat drunk driving, which has long been a problem in the state. One state report showed that at a checkpoint in Rapid City in 2007, police officers made a DUI arrest every 7.4 minutes.
South Dakota Driver Safety Ranking
The driver safety table shows the different safety factors that contribute to your state's overall safety rank (in the green box). The overall safety ranking and the National Ranking column scores in each category (including crash fatality rates) are from safest to most dangerous, with 1st being the safest and 51st the least safe.
How did we create the safety rankings?
We created a traffic safety ranking of all US states plus the District of Columbia by combining data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. We looked at fatality rates by distance traveled as well as by population and gave more weight to behaviors that were riskier and preventable (i.e., drunk driving, not using a seat belt), as well as to accidents that involved more than one party (i.e., multi-vehicle).
|Driver Safety Profile||Number of Fatalities||Fatality Rate
The fatality rate is the rate per one billion vehicle miles traveled, except for pedestrian and bicyclist fatality measures, which are per measured per a population of 100,000.
Rankings are in order of safest to least safe. A state with the lowest fatality rate would be the safest, and thus ranked #1.
|Drunk Driving-Related Fatalities||42||4.59||44th|
|Passenger Vehicle Unrestrained Fatalities||61||6.69||49th|
|Unhelmeted Motorcycle Fatalities||15||1.64||48th|
|Multiple Vehicle Fatalities||62||6.80||49th|
|Total Vehicle Fatalities||135||14.80||47th|
Sources: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
South Dakota: Protecting You from Injury on the Road
Icy winter driving is a special concern for South Dakota's motorists. In 2014 the State Department of Public Safety launched a television and social media ad campaign to educate motorists not to overcorrect or "jerk" the wheel when they start to slip or spin on ice in their car. The state's "Don't Jerk and Drive" campaign, however, garnered a lot of unwanted national attention for its risque double entendre. The ad was pulled, Trevor Jones of the Department of Public Safety told the Argus-Leader, because "I don't want this innuendo to distract from our goal to save lives on the road."
Winter driving campaigns aside, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety says South Dakota is "dangerously behind" on optimal driving safety laws. Among the laws the alliance of health, consumer and insurance groups would like to see South Dakota adopt are an all-rider motorcycle law, a ban on text messaging for all drivers, primary enforcement of seat belt laws, booster seats through age 7, and mandatory ignition interlocks for all DUI convictions.
Safe Driving Laws - South Dakota
|Mandatory seat belts||(partial)||South Dakota law requires that drivers and front seat passengers use seat belts.|
|Child passenger safety||Passenger restraint system required for infants and children under 5.|
|Driving under the influence (DUI)||First conviction: license suspended for 30 days; other penalties.|
|Ignition interlock after DUI||(partial)||Not required for first-time offenders|
|Talking on cell or texting while driving||(partial)|
|Protections for young drivers||(partial)||Graduated driver's license program; prohibition on nighttime driving between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.|
|Motorcycle helmet law||(partial)||Drivers under 18 are required to wear an approved safety helmet. Eye protection must be worn by all drivers and passengers.|
|Bicycle helmet law||No statewide law|
Source: Governors Highway Safety Association, 2016
Car Insurance Resources for South Dakota Residents
A yearly update on traffic safety laws in South Dakota by a national alliance of public health, consumer, medical and insurance groups.
A interactive map that shows risky road conditions, including road work, snow, fog, disasters and accidents.
Designed to protect the public, the insurance division of the Department of Labor can help you file a complaint against your insurer if necessary.
Part of a web channel devoted to ending teen drinking and driving, the site contains wrenching accounts of teens killed and maimed in alcohol-related crashes.
One of many South Dakota teens profiled on this website, Chris Olsen was engaged to his high school sweetheart when she was killed and he was thrown from a car driven by her brother in an alcohol-fueled crash. Left a quadriplegic, Olsen reflects on the night that "took away our future."