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A Recap of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally 2019

A Recap of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally 2019

September 06, 2019

The Sturgis motorcycle rally 2019 ran from August 2 to 11 and rang in Sturgis’ 79th anniversary. The theme this year was the Year of the Ride, which meant that, while other regular events like concerts by Styx, Snoop Dogg and Toby Keith were still going on, the highlight of the rally was the guided rides held throughout. These rides were kicked off by a July 31st ride with the Sturgis Director through the Black Hills. And, fortunately, the riding this year was smooth sailing for most. 

As far as accidents go, this year brought highs and lows, but the most positive news from Sturgis is that traffic fatalities, at only two, were the lowest they’ve been in quite a few years. The last time the death toll was this low was in 2014, when there were also two fatalities. 2008 and 2009 boasted even lower death tallies, where only one person died during each of these years.  

I’ll cover more highlights like these, along with lowlights, like a spike in crime and a terrorist threat, from the 2019 rally in this post. 

Increase in Crime

The Sturgis motorcycle rally 2019 saw a higher crime rate in various areas over the previous year.



Even before the rally ended, crime totals were way up by August 7 (the Wednesday of the rally). Crimes with the most significant increase were DUIs (a total of 97, compared to a total of 73 last year) and felony drug arrests (this year, felony drug arrests were at 73, up from 38 last year). However, Highway Patrol Capt. Jason Ketterling was quoted in the Rapid City Journal, saying that drug use in general across the country has been rising, which could be partially responsible for the higher numbers this year. 

At the end of the celebrations, the Highway Patrol made 171 DUI arrests (compared to 149 last year), 213 misdemeanor drug arrests (175 last year), and 131 felony drug arrests (77 last year). They had also put out 4094 warnings, compared to last year’s total of 3754. 

Potential Terror Target

On August 5, the police notified the public that a Facebook message had been circulating about a terror attack. The post talked about how a few lone wolves were plotting a homegrown terror attack at the Sturgis motorcycle rally 2019. The local police reacted by quickly contacting the FBI, who tried to track down the person who created the post. However, because the post had been shared so many times, finding the originator proved impossible.



Officials concluded the original author of the post might have simply been an attention-seeker, especially since the recent mass shootings have been fueling the public’s worst fears as of late. So, police assured the public that, although the current threat did not appear to be credible, rumors spread via social media are always taken seriously. Police also asked the public to forward any terror-related posts on to them, and not to their friends, which would make it easier to track down the source of any new messages. 

Judging from the news reports, it appeared rally-goers appeared to be mostly unfazed by this news. They felt reassured by a heavy police presence and the likelihood that their fellow bikers would be willing and able to fight back should someone try to attack the rally. 

Deaths Down

Just two traffic fatalities cast a shadow over the festivities of the Sturgis motorcycle rally 2019, down from four last year, according to the Highway Patrol’s count. 

The first tragedy happened when a 29-year-old man from Oklahoma died on Monday (August 5), when his bike veered off the road. The next tragic end was met by a 59-year-old Nebraskan woman on Friday, who rallied for her life for three days after crashing into another motorcycle.



Off the road, another tragic death also occurred: A Nebraskan man down for the rally was found dead in his motor home at the Sturgis campground. After investigating, the Meade County Sheriff announced that carbon monoxide poisoning was the apparent cause of death. 

Injuries Down

During the opening 24 hours of the Sturgis motorcycle rally 2019, 11 were injured in a total of nine crashes. 

Taken out of context, that seems like a whole lot, but when you look at the event as a whole compared with last year, the numbers are good news. There were 56 injury accidents last year, and 52 this year. There were also 41 non-injury crashes this year, down from 50 last year. 

One of these accidents occurred early Saturday afternoon on the South Dakota Highway when the driver lost control of the bike in a construction zone. Both driver and passenger were thrown from the bike. While both were helmetless, the driver suffered serious non-life threatening injuries, while the passenger walked away with minor injuries. 



Later on, at 4 p.m. that afternoon, a Harley-Davidson collided with a Ducati, when the Harley crossed into the oncoming lane. The accident also included a Yamaha bike that rear ended the Ducati. The two on the Harley-Davidson, and the rider of the Yamaha had minor injuries, while the man on the Ducati was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries. All involved were wearing helmets. 


According to an August 13th article in the Rapid City Journal, the Sturgis motorcycle rally 2019 was a bit slower than normal. This decrease in traffic is likely due to the landmark 80th anniversary coming up in 2020. These days, it’s not unusual for a downturn in visitors to happen prior to a big anniversary at motorcycle rallies in general. 

The official numbers estimate for this year’s rally are unknown for now, as they won’t be released until the summit meeting in October. But, if the amount of vehicles are any indication, it may be somewhat less that 2018’s 495,000 rally visitors. That’s because the number of vehicles entering the rally was above or the same as last year’s for the first four days and then tapered off from there. 

No matter how many visitors made it out, this was a stellar year for trailblazing. For one, it was the first time the Legendary Sturgis Adventure Ride was held. This ride was a five- to six-hour journey on dirt roads and trails with Mike Lafferty (73 AMA National wins). The 17th Annual Mayor’s Ride was another standout ride with a worthy cause. The proceeds of this regular ride go to emergency services as a token of appreciation to those providing aid during the festivities. 

It’s also definitely not too early to start thinking about the 2020 Sturgis motorcycle rally to be held from August 7 to 16, 2020. It’s the rally’s big 8-0, and promises to be the most memorable rally yet.

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