Meade County Sheriff Ron Merwin cautions motorcyclists and other vehicles using Fort Meade Way to slow down because his deputies have stepped up patrols in that area.
Merwin said the sheriff's department issued 64 tickets from 6 a.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. Monday, compared with 34 a year ago. Many have been issued to drivers along Fort Meade Way, the road that leads from Interstate 90 Exit 37 to the Buffalo Chip campground.
"We've been hitting Fort Meade Way pretty hard," Merwin said.
The Meade County Commission passed several resolutions at its July 26 meeting concerning Fort Meade Way, one of which was to lower the speed limit. The resolution lowered the speed limit to 35 mph on Fort Meade Way from S.D. Highway 34 to the creek a few miles south. The speed limit on the south end of the road near a residential area is set for 25 mph. Everything between those two locations is 45 mph.
The commissioners also passed a resolution implementing a no-passing zone on the entire length of Fort Meade Way and to outlaw engine exhaust or “jake brakes” in the residential area where the speed limit is 25 mph.
"Fort Meade Way is extremely busy. It's used a lot," Merwin said.
Sturgis Police Chief Geody VanDewater said his officers are responding to about 200 calls a night. Both calls for service and arrests are up, he said. Increases have come both in misdemeanor drug arrests and underage drinking. They also have seen increases in thefts.
"We've had people trying to reach into vendor tents and steal stuff. We see that a lot," he said.
Kevin Burke of the South Dakota Highway Patrol said numbers for their department remain close to those of a year ago, except for injury accidents.
"Our injury crashes are about double that of last year," he said. Statistics show that from 6 a.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Monday there were 23 injury accidents, compared with 12 for the same time period last year.
Burke said there are ongoing issues that lead to motorcycle accidents during the rally including miscommunication with other drivers at an intersection, inexperienced riders driving too fast on curvy roads, and bikers following other bikes too closely on the road.
"We would strongly encourage motorcyclists to stagger out and give safe following distance," he said. "Just because it's a motorcycle doesn't mean you have a greater stopping ability. You need to give a safe distance between you and that motorcyclist in front of you."
A fatal crash that occurred near Buffalo was counted among rally fatalities only because it happened during the time the Highway Patrol does its rally count and in the district that is included in the statistics.
The crash happened at 10:15 a.m. Sunday on U.S. Highway 85, about 11 miles south of Buffalo. A 2009 Toyota Corolla was traveling northbound on Highway 85 and crossed the center line. A southbound semi swerved to miss the vehicle. The two vehicles collided. The driver of Corolla, a 25-year-old man from Manti, Utah, was pronounced dead at the scene. The 44-year-old driver of the semi, from Dickinson, N.D., was not injured. Both drivers were wearing seat belts.
Other injury crashes that occurred Sunday included:
• Two motorcycles traveling on S.D. Highway 34 around 9:50 a.m. collided four miles east of Sturgis. Both drivers — a 62-year-old man from Belle Fourche and a 62-year-old man from Royalton, Ill., suffered injuries in the crash.
• Two motorcycles were traveling southbound on U.S. Highway 385 seven miles north of Hill City at around 2:50 p.m. when the first slowed down to make a turn and was hit from behind by the second motorcycle. The driver of the first motorcycle, a 54-year-old man from Cameron, Wis., and a 38-year-old woman from Conroth, Wisc., both suffered minor injuries. Neither was wearing a helmet. The driver of the second vehicle, a 61-year-old man from Castle Rock, Colo., sustained minor injuries. He was not wearing a helmet.
• A King George, Va., man suffered life-threatening injuries after he lost control of his motorcycle due to a high gust of wind. The accident occurred at 3:33 p.m. on I-90, 13 miles west of Murdo. The man was not wearing a helmet.
• A motorcycle driven by a 37-year-old man from Regina, Saskatchewan, was northbound on S.D. Highway 87 around 11 miles north of Custer at 5:28 p.m. when the driver lost control and went off roadway. The man suffered serious injuries. He was not wearing a helmet.
• A motorcycle was traveling westbound on I-90 near Reliance at 7:24 p.m. when the driver lost control on an overpass. The driver, a 59-year-old man from Brownsburg-Chatham, Quebec, suffered life-threatening injuries. He was not wearing a helmet.
• A motorcycle was traveling eastbound on U.S. Highway 385 near Deadwood at 8:17 p.m. when the driver lost control while making a left-hand turn. The vehicle went off the road and the driver was thrown from the motorcycle. The driver, a 40-year-old woman from Smithwick, suffered life-threatening injuries. She was not wearing a helmet.
• A motorcycle was traveling eastbound on I-90 near Sturgis at 8:46 p.m. when the driver hit a deer and lost control of the bike. The driver, a 51-year-old man from Tooele, Utah, suffered serious injuries. The passenger, a 51-year-old woman from Rushville, Utah, sustained minor injuries. The man was not wearing a helmet.