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With the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally fast approaching, the Black Hills is bracing for the annual onslaught of bikers from across the United States. Because laws vary by state, even the most seasoned riders should acquaint themselves with South Dakota’s motorcycle laws. Following these guidelines will ensure a fun and safe Rally!

updated July 2020

Equipment

Motorcyclists in South Dakota must make sure their equipment meets the following guidelines.

  • All motorcycles must be equipped with at least one but no more than two headlamps.
  • Motorcycles must have at least one tail lamp able to emit a red light visible for a distance of 500 feet.
  • Every motorcycle must be equipped with a muffler in good working order and in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual noise.
  • Handlebars must be no higher than the shoulder height of the person operating the motorcycle.
  • South Dakota Department of Transportation-approved motorcycle safety helmets are mandatory for all riders under the age of 18.
  • Safety helmets are not required for persons riding in an enclosed cab attached to a motorcycle.
  • Motorcycle operators must wear protective eye devices unless the motorcycle is equipped with a windscreen of sufficient height and design to protect the operator. When headlights are required, protective eye devices that are tinted or shaded to reduce the light transmission below 35 percent cannot be worn.

Licensing

Anybody who operates a motor vehicle or motor-driven cycle on South Dakota public roadways must possess a valid driver’s license. You are required to have a South Dakota driver’s license if you live in the state for more than 90 days. Commercial driver’s license holders must apply for a South Dakota license within 30 days. South Dakota law (SDCL 32-12-39) requires all licensees have their driver’s license in their immediate possession at all times when operating a motor vehicle. The following exemptions allow people to drive with a valid license from their home state as long as they are at least 16 years old:

  • Military: Members of the Armed Forces on active duty or members of foreign military on temporary duty with the Armed Forces, as well as their spouse and children.
  • Student: Students who reside in South Dakota to further their education but are considered non-residents for tuition purposes. 

To obtain a Motorcycle License, you must be at least 16 years of age and pass a vision, knowledge (car/truck and motorcycle), and motorcycle driving test. Minors who are at least 16 but younger than 18 must obtain an Instruction Permit and must not have been convicted of a traffic violation for a period of six months prior to obtaining the Motorcycle License. The license is valid for five years. 

More detailed information on motorcycle rules and regulations can be found in the South Dakota Legislature’s Codified Laws section.