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South Dakota sees record number of motorcycle fatalities; big Sturgis rally cited as factor


PIERRE, South Dakota — A record 31 motorcyclists have died on South Dakota roads since Jan. 1, with a state official citing this year's landmark Sturgis Motorcycle Rally as a factor.

The number of fatalities is the highest for any given year since the Department of Public Safety started keeping statistics in 1963, the Capital Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1GAMpI9 ).

The 75th anniversary of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in the western Black Hills was a factor in the record number of deaths, according to state Highway Safety Director Lee Axdahl. The rally drew an estimated 739,000 people, and there were 14 motorcycle fatalities linked to the event.

"Obviously, with a big anniversary year, the number of bikers increases dramatically," Axdahl said. "With that increase comes the heightened risk of additional deaths."

The record also comes during a time in which there are more machines and more riders on South Dakota roads. The number of licensed motorcyclists in South Dakota last year — the most recent year for which figures are available — was up 69 percent from 20 years earlier, to 83,623, and the number of registered bikes more than tripled, to 78,380.

"People used to use one motorcycle for everything," said Ross Petersen, a Harley-Davidson dealer in Pierre. "Now they might have a sporter for riding around in town and a bigger one for the road."

Information from: Pierre Capital Journal, http://www.capjournal.com

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