We can learn from this year’s motorcycle fatalities

Dec. 14, 2020

Traffic deaths have increased sharply on Minnesota’s roads in 2020. Unfortunately, motorcycle deaths are no exception. Rider deaths are up 43 percent from last year. But we don’t have to allow this trend to continue. One thing we can do to honor the lives of those we have lost is to learn from them so that we can prevent future deadly crashes.

Statistics for motorcycle deaths in Minnesota are more than numbers – they tell a story. Preliminary numbers show 63 motorcyclists have died so far in 2020. At the same time last year, there were 44 motorcycle fatalities on Minnesota roads. We can do better, and a look at the numbers can help us learn how.

First up: helmet use. In 65 percent of this year’s motorcycle fatalities, the rider wasn’t wearing a helmet. It’s a good reminder that DOT-approved helmets – preferably high-visibility helmets – are the very best way to protect yourself in case of a crash. It can even help prevent crashes by making you more visible to other drivers.

We can also learn something by looking at the demographics of those killed in motorcycle crashes this year. The majority of fatalities involved riders between 40 and 50 years old. Pop culture may tell us that 50 is the new 30, but the fact is that our reaction time tends to slow down as we age. Even Bill Shaffer, coordinator of the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center (MMSC), can tell you that from his own experience.

As many as 38 of this year’s fatal crashes involved only the motorcycle. Yes, other drivers can be dangerous, but the better your riding skills, the better you’re able to protect yourself from hazards on the road that can cause a single-vehicle crash, such as road debris, animals and negotiating curves.

A great way to get those riding skills and keep them sharp, no matter your age, is to take a motorcycle training course. Training schedules will be available and open for registration by mid-January on the MMSC’s website. Try taking a course early in the spring so you’ll be set for a fun and safe riding season in 2021.