Oil boom boosts traffic numbers on rural highway - KOTA Territory News

Oil boom boosts traffic numbers on rural highway

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Highway 85 runs from Belle Fourche to Bowman, North Dakota.  But the long stretch of highway is no longer a quiet, rural road.

"This is little old Belle Fourche and sometimes it's hard to leave the courthouse," said Butte County Sheriff Fred Lamphere. "You used to be able to just look both ways and head out, but now with the truck volume and the traffic volume, it's just, it's just changed."

It's changed from about 1,100 vehicles a day in May of 2011 to almost 1,600 vehicles a day as of July 2012, according to the South Dakota Department of Transportation. That's more than twice the population of Belle Fourche and four times the population of Buffalo.

A South Dakota Highway Patrol operation from September 16-19 proves that a lot of the drivers using Highway 85 are not following the law.

"They did, what'd I say, 358 inspections, of that they pulled out 137 trucks and 39 drivers for not [being] road worthy or unable to drive," said Harding County Sheriff William Clarkson.

And those numbers don't include simple speed violations. The speed limit on Highway 85 is 65 mph but Clarkson said the average vehicle is doing 75-78 mph.  Speeding isn't the only problem.

"There are a lot of drugs going through here, we have a lot of  DUI's that's increased incredibly in the last 18 months, accidents have increased," said Clarkson.

Clarkson estimated that almost every local resident with a driver's license has nearly been in an accident on Highway 85 in the last 18 months. And he may be right.

"Mostly I ride motorcycle, so when somebody is passing and illegally passing, I've almost been run off the road a couple times," said Buffalo resident David Dallago.

He said the heavy traffic stopped him from going to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally as often this year.

"If somebody hits you in your car you know they might do some damage you know maybe you get injured a little bit, if somebody hits me on my motorcycle I'm probably going to die," said Dallago.

While local residents are forced into a state of higher awareness, law enforcement fears the situation will only get worse.

"We just don't have the means right now within the county to enforce some of the issues that are going on up there," said Lamphere.

"It's a hard thing to say, but it's a reality," said Clarkson. "We're going to see it until this thing slows down."

 (All Vehicles in this video are law abiding vehicles traveling along Highway 85.)

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