PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota Highway Patrol and Highway Safety officials urge motorists and bikers to share the road in the heavier than normal traffic during the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
The rally officially begins on Monday, Aug. 6, but motorcycle traffic on South Dakota highways and streets has increased steadily since early summer, says Lee Axdahl, Director of the State Office of Highway Safety.
"We have already recorded 11 fatalities involving motorcycle crashes this year,’’ Axdahl said. "South Dakota had 14 motorcycle fatalities in all of 2011. I’m urging all riders and driver to be especially cautious during rally time. Summer brings heavier than normal traffic, anyway, and the rally puts thousands more motorcycles into that mix. Everyone can have a good time and a safe time if everyone makes smart choices on the road.’’
Some 30 to 40 percent of motorcycle fatalities occur each year in West River counties during a two-week period around the annual rally, Highway Safety statistics show. Law enforcement is increased during that time each year, but this year travelers will see an even larger presence. Highway Safety, the South Dakota Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies are partnering in "100 Days of Heat,’’ a summer-long education and enforcement effort targeting drinking drivers, speeders and motorists not wearing seat belts.
"We’ll be out there,’’ said Col. Craig Price, superintendent of the Highway Patrol. "The goal isn’t to make as many arrests as we can but to be visible and to remind travelers that they are responsible for making safe choices on the highways. Bikers are pretty vulnerable out there, and the best protection is to wear a helmet and play it safe.’’
The Office of Highway Safety this year created a website www.southdakotarides.com specifically for motorcycle enthusiasts. The site includes safety tips, motorcycle laws and regulations and several interactive features. One of those features offers website visitors a virtual ride on several popular South Dakota routes. It gives novice riders or bikers unfamiliar with South Dakota routes a chance to study various routes and gauge the difficulty of the ride compared to their level of skill on a motorcycle.
The official dates of the 2012 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally are Monday, Aug. 6 through Sunday, Aug. 12.