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.
About the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center
The Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center (MMSC) provides high-quality rider education, training and licensing to prevent motorcycle crashes and the resulting fatalities and injuries.
The MMSC provides on-cycle and classroom rider training courses; media relations, events, campaign and informational materials; and third-party skills testing for motorcycle license endorsement through the Basic Rider Course and evening motorcycle testing project at select DVS Exam Stations.
The MMSC was created from a state statute to address record high motorcyclist fatalities in the early 1980s. The law also created a state dedicated Motorcycle Safety Fund, which comes directly from Minnesota motorcyclists through a portion of motorcycle endorsement fees.
Motorcycle safety is a component of Toward Zero Deaths (TZD), the state’s primary road safety initiative. A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes — education, enforcement, engineering and emergency trauma response.
Recent MMSC Activity and Statistics
- Ridership is at record-high levels in Minnesota, with over 230,000 registered motorcycles and almost 400,000 licensed operators.
- 2011 Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts reports 42 rider deaths, down from a 24-year high of 72 in 2008.
- MMSC and the SMARTrainer had a presence at 15 motorcycle organization events and shows from March 2012 to August 2012.
- MMSC attended the Association of State Motorcycle Safety Administrators Annual Business Conference in Nashville from Aug. 24 to Aug. 26.
- Follow MMSC on Twitter: @MnDPS_MCSafety.