Hundreds of thousands of bikers are hitting the road, headed for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally August 4th through the 13th in the Black Hills of South Dakota. A number of agencies are joining forces for the "Safe 2 Sturgis" campaign, designed to raise awareness of motorcycle safety and the many motorcycle enthusiasts headed to the rally.

Officials say in 2016, 226 motorcycle crashes were reported in Wyoming, and 24 of those were fatal. Wyoming averages three motorcycle fatalities a year during the Sturgis Rally alone.

"We do have a problem in the state, particularly this time of year, with fatal motorcycle crashes," says Pete Abrams, the Law Enforcement Liaison for the Wyoming Department of Transportation. "We generally see an uptick in that because of the volume of motorcyclists that have to get through Wyoming to get to Sturgis."

The "Safe 2 Sturgis" campaign will be focused on the week before, week of, and week after the rally and officials say you can expect to see banners and signage along the travel routes. The message is aimed at bikers and vehicle drivers alike.

Vehicle drivers should look left, right, and left again at intersections, and always be aware of what's around the vehicle. "A lot of the crashes we see are, the motoring public aren't looking for that motorcycle," says Sgt. Duane Ellis of the Wyoming Highway Patrol, "and so when we're talking about motorcycle safety we're also talking about those people that are in the vehicle and looking for the folks that are out there on the motorcycles."

Sgt. Ellis says motorcyclists are more at risk. "The numbers do show, driving a motorcycle is inherently dangerous of itself just because of their size, you don't have the protection of the metal around you, and if something bad happens it never really turns out good."

Of the seven fatal motorcycle crashes that have occurred so far this year in Wyoming, six of the riders were not wearing their helmets. Sgt. Ellis says motorcyclists do have a duty to protect themselves. "That's one of the best ways for a motorcyclist to protect themselves in a crash, is to wear that helmet to protect their head and it gives them a little more survivability in case something bad does happen."

Besides the awareness portion, Abrams says there is also an enforcement element and we'll see a stepped-up presence on the roads and highways. That will include watching for impairment and poor driving, and for vehicles that are following the motorcycles too closely, which can cause those crashes.

The campaign includes the use of a #Safe2Sturgis hashtag, encouraging all motorists and riders to post photos on social media of what they're doing to stay safe.

"Safe 2 Sturgis" is a partnership with the National Highway Safety Administration, the Wyoming Highway Patrol, the Cheyenne Police Department, The Colorado State Patrol, and the Wyoming and Colorado Departments of Transportation.

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