Nothing puts a damper on fun quite like a run in with Johnny Law, and with the increased police presence in and around the city of Sturgis during the annual motorcycle rally, knowing the state and local laws is a must. To make sure you have the 411 on what law enforcement officers will be looking for, Sturgis Rider® News sat down with Chief of Police Geody VanDewater of the Sturgis Police Department. Make sure you and other riders on the road can have a safe and fun time during this year’s Sturgis motorcycle rally by checking out his list of dos and don’ts.
Drinking and Driving
This is a no-brainer. If you plan on kicking back some cold ones, please designate a sober driver to get you back to your home base safely. If that’s not an option, there are modes of public transportation you can use that will cost you significantly less than a DUI. The Sturgis Party Shuttle can get you where you need to go with stops at most of the area's campgrounds and hotels including Sturgis and Deadwood. With the Buffalo Chip as its headquarters, the Sturgis Party Shuttle has shuttles that route every 30 minutes from 12 p.m. to 3 a.m. Aug. 4-13 at both the Chip’s east and west gate.
Illegal Drug Use
During the Sturgis motorcycle rally there are plenty of rides, concerts and activities that’ll give you a high that’s just as good as the hard stuff. According to their website, the Sturgis Police Department has a zero tolerance policy on all drug arrests no matter how small and will not relax charges on any violations. Just say no to drugs and you can avoid spending the bulk of your vacation in the clink.
Failure to Stop at Red Lights and Stop Signs
Traffic congestion is to be expected when you come into the city of Sturgis, but it’s important to remember to obey all traffic laws. When stopping at red lights and stop signs, you must come to a complete stop.
“Some people can balance their bike at a complete stop, but to be safe, we suggest you put at least one foot down and stop for 2-3 seconds.”
- Sturgis Chief of Police Geody VanDewater
Passing on the Sidewalk or Shoulder
You might get impatient when waiting in traffic, but don’t try to pass on the right shoulder or sidewalks. If you are caught doing this, Sturgis police will stop you and issue you a $111 ticket. You can also use Fort Meade Way to avoid the hassle of waiting through heavy rally traffic.
Recent law changes allow you to have handlebars on your bike at the height of your choosing, but there are other modifications that are still illegal. For example, there are rules about how loud your exhaust system can be. All modifications must be factory altered. Removing the baffles in your exhaust is still against the law.
There is no specific decibel level for exhaust in the state of South Dakota, but every motorcycle must at all times be equipped with a muffler in good working order and in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual noise. Sturgis Police will be listening for unusually loud exhaust to determine if you are violating South Dakota's vehicle noise law, 32-15-17. If you are, they’ll fine you $120.
When the number on the thermometer starts climbing, you might be tempted to wear less. While there’s no dress code, it’s smart to remember the law requires you to keep your naughty bits covered. Failure to do so will get you charged with indecent exposure, which will land you a $111 fine.
Helmets and Eye Protection
Helmets are required for any passengers under 18 and protective eyewear is a must. Beyond that, there are no restrictions on what you can wear on your bike, but Chief VanDewater recommends you play it safe and wear the right gear when riding. Full leathers and closed-toe footwear are encouraged.
Get great gear recommendations from seasoned riders prefer by checking out “10 Essential Pieces of Gear You Shouldn’t Ride Without.”
The most common complaint the Sturgis Police Department receives during the rally involves parking violations. Parking downtown can be a real pain in the you-know-what, but that doesn’t mean you can park just anywhere.
You are allowed to park anywhere on downtown streets within the barricades, except for intersections. If you are parked in handicap spots or in zones outside of the barricades that are painted yellow or red, your vehicle will be ticketed and towed. Avoid parking in alleyways or private parking lots. Public Works cleans the streets nightly to keep Sturgis looking beautiful, so if you leave your bike parked downtown after 2 a.m., it will be towed. Chief VanDewater suggests taking advantage of public transportation to keep you and your bike safe.
Outside of the city, you won’t find parking to be nearly as regulated. Remember, there is always plenty of free parking available at the Buffalo Chip CrossRoads.
For tips on what to do if you do encounter the police check out “What To Do If You Get Pulled Over.”
Have you been stopped by Sturgis police? Share your stories in the comments below to help your fellow bikers avoid getting a violation.