There have been a number of harsh realities that we've been forced to deal with during this COVID-19 pandemic affecting just about every aspect of our lives.

But one thing that was far more manageable over the last three months was the amount of traffic on local streets and highways, or should I say a lack of traffic.

According to new numbers released by the traffic data website INRIX, the percentage of vehicles traveling in the Mount Rushmore State was reduced by nearly half (down to 57%) as of mid-April.

But the latest figures show that not only have traffic levels in South Dakota returned to normal, they're actually exceeding pre-pandemic levels.

The numbers from the week of June 12 show that our local roadways are now at 121 percent - that's the third-highest level in the country, behind only Wyoming (137%) and Montana (122%).

For the 13-week period of the pandemic, South Dakota is operating at an average of 85% for traffic levels statewide. That's fifth in the United States, trailing a quartet of other sparsely populated Western states (Wyoming - 96%, Montana - 89%, Idaho - 87%, and Alaska - 86%).

Nationally, average traffic levels are at about 70% for the quarter.

South Dakota's biggest jump came in mid-April with a 15 percent increase in traffic (57% to 72%) from the week of April 17 to April 24.

A handful of states are still seeing traffic right about half of their normal pre-pandemic levels.

Not surprisingly, Hawaii, which has had the toughest quarantine laws in the country, is only at 49%, while New Jersey (53%), Connecticut (58%), and Massachusetts (59%) are still seeing traffic down by more than 40 percent.