Nine people died during the 2010 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, roughly double the usual number of fatalities that occur each year. According to South Dakota accident records, there were a total of 14 motorcycle fatalities before and during the annual rally. This number includes accidents that occurred within the state, but not in the rally region. Several factors most likely contributed to these deaths, and many of them could have been avoided.
Any big event that attracts large numbers of people is going to increase the odds of an accident occurring, whether it’s a motorcycle or car crash. According to Brenda Vasknetz, the rally’s director, at least 600,000 people attended the rally this year. Unfortunately, sometimes when both motorcycles and cars are sharing the road, the chances of an accident actually increase. Car drivers often don’t see motorcycles when they’re changing lanes or making turns, and the results can be tragic.
This year, a few of those motorcycle deaths are being attributed to faulty rear tires which blew out and caused fatal accidents. But most accidents seem to have been caused by inattention, the most preventable, and regrettable accident cause of all.
The cruelest sorts of motorcycle injuries and deaths are the ones that occur even when the rider has taken the proper precautions. On August 28, well after the Sturgis Rally ended, Denver resident Jeffrey Cronholm, 31, was riding on Highway 385 near Pactola Reservoir in South Dakota. He lost control of his motorcycle while attempting to negotiate a curve and slid into a ditch. He was air lifted to Rapid City Regional Hospital where he died as a result of his injuries.
Cronholm was wearing a helmet, and South Dakota Highway Patrol said alcohol was not a factor in the crash. No reason for the accident was given other than Cronholm simply lost control of his motorcycle.
Tragedies like these just prove that no amount of precaution is too much. In addition to wearing a helmet and avoiding alcohol before riding, motorcycle safety courses that teach riders how to handle their bikes in all types of situations can be of great benefit. Sometimes circumstances arise that are beyond the rider’s control, whether it’s inclement weather or a sharply winding road. Knowing how to react to the unexpected can be a lifesaver.
Motorcycle maintenance is extremely important as well. Regular inspections can decrease the chances of tire blowouts or other equipment malfunctions that can cause accidents. In less than an hour per month, all the motorcycle’s parts and systems can be checked to ensure they’re running properly. It’s especially important to make sure all the lights are functioning. One of the biggest reasons cars and motorcycles get into accidents is that the driver of the car doesn’t see the motorcycle. Properly working lights can go a long way to avoiding that situation.
Most important of all, regardless of what’s going on, whether it’s a big, exciting event like the Sturgis Rally, or just morning rush hour, paying attention to the road and all the vehicles on it can be the difference between life and death for a motorcycle rider.