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Sturgis Motorcycle Rally under way

STURGIS (AP) — The annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally got under way in the Black Hills of western South Dakota on Monday, with law officers already having put in a full weekend of work.

Officers had made 45 drunken driving arrests and 42 drug arrests through Sunday, along with issuing more than 250 traffic citations and nearly 600 warnings, according to the Highway Patrol. There also was one fatality. Roberto Gasbar, 56, of Edmonton in the Canadian province of Alberta, died Saturday when his motorcycle drifted off the road and overturned, throwing him from the machine. He was not wearing helmet.

South Dakota does not require motorcyclists to wear a helmet, but Capt. Kevin Karley told KELO-TV it is a good idea.

"There's no perfect solution for safety, but obviously we've seen through our own experience over the years of investigating motorcycle crashes that they definitely help," he said. "There's no question that helmets help save lives."

An analysis by the Rapid City Journal found that at least 141 people on motorcycles died in Sturgis-related accidents between 1994 and 2012. More than three-fourths of them were not wearing helmets.

Navigating the hilly, winding roads in the Black Hills can be a challenge. Many of the roads present riders with varying combinations of inclines, declines and steep curves, as well as narrow or nonexistent road shoulders.

"A lot of them (riders) come from out of state, and they may not have all these corners that we have here," Jiggs Cressy, the South Dakota state coordinator for ABATE, a motorcycle advocacy group, told the Journal.

Ken Deets, 37, of Tucson, Ariz., who has been riding a motorcycle for 20 years, said safety is at the front of most bikers' minds because it's their lives on the line every time they get on a bike. Over the years he has had several near-misses but no accidents, he told the Journal.

"It's a shame because it's mostly people not paying attention," Deets said. "I just try to ride with a buddy and never ride alone. If I see a bunch of traffic, I'll pull over, kick my stand out and just wait until it dies down."

The rally runs through Sunday. This is the 73rd year for the event, which draws hundreds of thousands of people annually. Last year eight people died in crashes during the rally. There were 251 drunken driving arrests and 219 drug arrests.