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Sturgis rally safer, larger this year

A stretch bike rolls down one of the Sturgis, S.D., streets during the 2018 rally late last week. Submitted photo

STURGIS, S.D.—Although an estimated road count of visitors won't be released until Tuesday, Aug. 14, attendance at the rally was soaring throughout the week.

The 78th annual rally in the Black Hills of South Dakota also turned out to be one of the safer ones as deaths were cut in half from last year and injury accidents were also down.

The state Department of Public Safety said there were four deaths in the Black Hills region during this year's rally, compared to eight last year. Injury accidents also fell from 69 last year to 56 this year.

In most of the crashes this year, as in the past, motorcyclists failed to negotiate curves, sometimes on the winding roads of the Black Hills and would swerve off the roadways.

Meanwhile, DUI arrests dropped slightly from 161 last year to 149 this years, but drug arrests (both misdemeanors and felonies) were up from 217 last year to 252 this year.

Kristi Sandal of the state Department of Transportation said final visitation numbers would be released Tuesday, Aug. 14. However, through the first seven days of the nine-day event traffic counts stood at almost 400,000 visitors compared to 376,000 through that time period last year.

Visitation counts were especially up Wednesday and Thursday of last week with increases of about 11.5 percent both days.