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Editorial - Prepare for motorcycle riding now

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Even though spring still seems to be a mirage off in the distance, it will eventually get here.

That means motorcyclists will finally be able to get their bikes out on the road.

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And that leads to danger.

Last year, 53 riders were killed in Minnesota, a 26 percent increase from 2011.

To prevent those tragic numbers from reoccurring, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety is urging riders of all skill levels to take a training course now, even before spring finally blooms. The DPS notes that motorcycle rider training is an affordable option that teaches crash-avoidance techniques and hones critical riding skills.

The motorcycle training season begins in April. Courses are available at 30 Minnesota locations. They include the Basic Rider Course, the essential beginning rider course, and the Civilian Police Motorcycle Course, where experienced riders can learn the same techniques used by police motorcycle officers.

Basic Rider Courses in Alexandria start on May 3 at Alexandria Technical and Community College. The times to take the training are flexible. Classes are offered in the morning, afternoons, evenings and weekends. The cost is $160. For registration information, call 1-888-234-1313 or visit the website, www.motorcyclesafety.org.

"After a deadly year, it's up to both riders and drivers to reduce these tragedies," said Bill Shaffer of the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center (MMSC). "Riders must shoulder the responsibility for protecting themselves and the first step is to take a rider training course."

To promote rider training, MMSC is launching a "Ride Better. Ride Smarter. Ride Longer." rider training campaign. It demonstrates the skills learned and honed through training, which provides riders the means to be safer on the road.

Motorcycle safety is taking on more importance than ever because of how many riders there are on the road. Ridership is at record-high levels in Minnesota, with more than 237,000 registered motorcycles and 405,000 licensed operators, according to the MMSC.

Last year's motorcycle-related fatalities accounted for 14 percent of Minnesota's total traffic deaths. It marked the first time rider fatalities have gone up since 2008.

Motorcycle riders, as well as drivers of other vehicles, should do everything they can to keep the numbers of crashes from rising in 2013. Drivers have to start "seeing" motorcycles at intersections and alongside them on the road. And motorcycle riders should be as prepared as possible before they head out on the highway.

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