A 20-year-old man died in a motorcycle crash Saturday night in Big Stone City, which is adjacent to Ortonville, Minnesota, in Grant County in the northeast corner of South Dakota.
According to Tony Mangan, communications director for the South Dakota Department of Public Safety, it happened about 9:11 p.m., Saturday, May 16.
The man was driving a 2019 Kawasaki ZX636GKFA four-cylinder Ninja bike south on S.D. 109 in Big Stone City, went through the intersection with U.S. 12, left the roadway, went into a yard and hit the wall of a garage.
He was not wearing a helmet and was pronounced dead at the scene, Mangan said in a news release on Sunday. The man’s name was not released, pending notification of his relatives.
Highway 109 at the scene has an abrupt and relatively steep overpass over the BNSF Railway tracks that parallel Highway 12 across the state. The downslope of the overpass on 109 ends only about 50 feet from the intersection with Highway 12, which is Main Street across Big Stone City.
The garage of the house on the south side of Highway 12 at that three-way intersection is about 20 feet from the roadway, according to an online map.
Highway 109 begins at U.S. 12, going north; there is no roadway on the south side of the intersection.
Apparently this was the second motorcycle traffic fatality of the year in the state.
On April 18, Shane St. Clair, 55, of Sioux Falls, died when he lost control of a 2015 Victory Magnum bike about 3 miles north of Viborg, South Dakota. He was not wearing a helmet, according to Mangan.
In recent years, motorcycle traffic deaths have averaged 15 to 20 per year, while total traffic deaths have averaged about 130, according to state reports.
The long-term trend has been fewer deaths.
A marked decrease in the state’s traffic deaths began in 2007, according to figures from the Highway Patrol. In the 12 years 1995-2006, an average of 175 people were killed each year in traffic crashes across the state, ranging from 148 in 1997 to 203 in 2003.
But in the 12 years from 2007-2018, the annual death toll averaged 130, which was the 2018 death toll; that era’s average was 26% lower than the previous decade’s average.
State safety officials say it was a combination of marked improvements in vehicles, in roads and in law enforcement.
But in 2019, traffic deaths dipped to a new record low: only 102 people were killed in traffic crashes in the state, the lowest figure since records began in 1947, state officials said.
Perhaps the fact that July 2018-July 2019 was the wettest 12 months in state history and kept many roads closed for months played a role in the lower traffic death numbers.