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Does it really have to be bigger to be better?
Based on preliminary numbers, the 2022 edition of the famed Sturgis Motorcycle Rally turned out to be a slightly smaller gathering than the 2021 edition.
First, let’s admit that no one really knows how many people ever show up for the famous rally, as attendees are dispersed all around the Black Hills, not just in Sturgis. The most reputable number comes from the South Dakota Department of Transportation, which releases data based on sensors that count vehicles as they enter Sturgis.
The traffic count reported on News.sd.gov from Aug. 5-14 totaled up to 497,835. Last year, the SDDOT reported attendance of 555,000 people. The 2022 rally saw an increase in arrests, and law enforcement officials note that increased arrests typically indicate a smaller crowd – it’s easier for officers to get around and catch various offenses when the numbers are down.
One of the more reliable reports of rally statistics comes from the Highway Patrol Sturgis Rally Tally, which can be viewed at News.sd.gov. It compiles reports from both Sturgis and the Rapid City district, and it indicates that DUI arrests and misdemeanor drug arrests were each at 148 from Aug. 6-14. The number of felony drug arrests was slightly less at 103. The total number of citations issued was a whopping 1,430, and the amount of cash seized during the rally totaled $4,335.
American Rider spoke with a motor officer taking a break on his bike across the street from the Knuckle Brewing Company in downtown Sturgis. Retired Officer Nick Hatzgionidis had come in from New Orleans, Louisiana, to help with law enforcement, something he has done for the past five years.
Hatzgionidis said he has never had any major negative experiences at Sturgis, unlike some of his patrol duty at Mardi Gras.
“It’s always a great crowd,” he said of Sturgis attendees. “It’s really a social group, and they’re pretty pro-police, and they help us as much as possible.”
Based on the Rally Tally, obviously not everyone was behaving themselves, but while arrests were up from 2021, the number of fatalities and crashes – both with and without injuries – were down this year.
The most unfortunate things to come out of the 2022 Sturgis Rally were the three fatalities of fellow riders. A collision of two 2013 Harley-Davidson FLHX riders on Saturday, Aug. 6, caused the death of a 58-year-old male. He was not wearing a helmet.
The following day, a 51-year-old male on a Harley-Davidson Road King was pronounced dead at the scene of his crash after hitting a 1986 Honda Gold Wing that lost control while attempting to avoid crashing into a car. The rider of the Gold Wing failed to avoid the impact with the car, and the Road King hit the Honda, killing the 51-year-old man. He was wearing a helmet.
The final fatality occurred on Tuesday, Aug. 9, when a three-way collision took the life of a 66-year-old female passenger on a 2018 Harley-Davidson trike. The gnarly incident began when the rider of a 2012 Harley-Davidson motorcycle collided with another trike that had stopped on the shoulder of the road to make a U-turn. The fatality occurred when the trike the woman was on ran into the carnage. The woman was not wearing a helmet and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Although the three fatalities suffered this year were one less than the four from the 2021 rally, at American Rider, we feel for the lives lost and offer condolences to the family and friends left behind.
Not all crashes that came out of the rally were fatal. The total number of injury crashes sustained during the 10-day rally added up to 50, and non-injury crashes came in slightly less at 45. These numbers are less than 2021, which saw 62 injury crashes and 50 non-injury crashes.
What goes on at a rally this size is oftentimes unpredictable, so it’s never a bad idea to keep in mind that anything can happen to anyone. While the fewer crashes might correlate to the estimated lesser attendance at the 2022 rally, it’s uplifting to know that this edition of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was just a bit safer for all involved. Keep your head on your shoulders, your wits about you, and the rubber side down.