ST. PAUL — This year’s 47 Minnesota motorcyclist deaths to-date have eclipsed the 2011 total of 42, according to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety. With five deaths in the past week, rider deaths continue to surge in September with eight deaths for the month.
DPS officials say the early start to the rider season — the first rider death was in March — as well as a record number of riders, coupled with common crash factors, have propelled this year’s increase in fatalities. The highest number of motorcyclist deaths was in 1980 when 121 were killed.
“This spike in rider deaths reflects how preventable mistakes and lack of attention can wipe out a life and rip families apart,” says Bill Shaffer of the DPS Motorcycle Safety Center. “It’s been a violent year on the road for motorcyclists and it’s up to both riders and drivers to reduce these tragedies.”
The leading crash factors each year for rider deaths are rider error, alcohol use and motorist failure to yield.
Deer-motorcycle crashes pose a new threat to riders with the autumn season. Riders should avoid riding at dusk, and if they encounter a deer, attempt to stop quickly. If impact seems imminent release the brakes just prior to impact and try to swerve around the deer. Last year, deer-motorcycle fatal crashes resulted in five of the 42 rider deaths.
Ridership is at an all-time high in the state, with more than 230,000 registered motorcycles and more than 400,000 licensed operators.
DPS offers these safety tips for motorists and riders to ensure a safe riding environment:
- Motorists — Watch for motorcycles, and always look twice before entering a roadway or changing lanes. Due to the smaller size of motorcycles, their speed and distance is more difficult to judge. Give riders room and check blind spots. Pay attention and drive at safe speeds.
- Riders — Wear protective gear, pay attention, ride at safe speeds and ride sober. DPS advises riders to take safety training courses to hone skills; more information at www.motorcyclesafety.org.
Watch Thursday’s press conference video: