Wyoming Highway Patrol authorities are urging motorists to use extra caution this week as more than 400,000 bikers will pass through the state heading to Sturgis, South Dakota for the largest motorcycle rally in the world.
Wrecks between animals and vehicles are common in Wyoming and the West. Darting deer, anxious antelope and enormous elk are just some of the animals known to cross highways at inopportune times for motorists. Depending on the vehicle, it can be a bad day for the driver and a worse one for the animal.
In some areas of the state, biker and bison interactions can also occur. In a video from 2010, bison can be seen charging at bikers riding through Yellowstone National Park.
“We have a lot of motorcycle crashes that are attributed to animals running out into the roadway,” said Sgt. Jeremy Beck with the Wyoming Highway Patrol. “Just be mindful. If you’re headed to Sturgis and you’re on a motorcycle, make sure you’re watching out for any wildlife in the area.”
According to the Wyoming Department of Transportation, Wyoming has averaged about 19 motorcycle fatalities a year. The lowest fatalities were in 2018 and 2014 with 16 each. The deadliest was in 2015 with 24 fatalities.
While a number of crashes can be attributed to animals crossing roadways, they are just one of a combination of incidents that can occur. Animals, excessive speeds, and alcohol are all contributing factors to motorcycle fatalities, Beck said.
“There’s a cliche saying of ‘Look twice, save a life’ and I would just recommend motorists do that when they’re heading to the Black Hills,” said Beck. “Motorcycles are a little harder to see than an average vehicle. Before you’re changing lanes, before you pull out into an intersection, just look twice.”
The 82nd Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally began August 5. The event, which draws 500,000 people on average, will conclude on August 14.
One fatal motorcycle accident has already occurred at the rally.
On Saturday morning, the first official day of the rally, a 58-year-old male was killed when his Harley-Davidson rear-ended another Harley. The 68-year-old male driver of the second Harley sustained non-life threatening injuries, reported the Argus Leader.