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Motorcyclist crashes in state claim 26 lives this year

ST. PAUL -- The number of preliminary Minnesota motorcyclist fatalities hit 26 following a deadly July when seven riders were killed, tied with May for deadliest month of the year for riders. This year's rider deaths are slightly up compared to the 23 at this time last year, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Motorcycle Safety Center (MMSC).

To-date in 2012, 191 people have been killed in traffic crashes on Minnesota roads of which 14 percent are riders.

At this rate, DPS projects 46 deaths for 2012, which would mark the first time since 2008 that rider deaths have increased. There were 42 rider deaths in 2011 and 45 in 2010.

DPS officials say there are many contributing factors to the deadlier year for riders, including record-high numbers of motorcyclists and early summer-like weather. The first rider death occurred on March 12, the earliest rider death on record since 2002.

Officials also note common factors contributing to fatal motorcycle crashes continue, such as failure to yield right-of-way, driver inattention and motorcyclist error.

MMSC Program Coordinator, Bill Shaffer, encourages motorists to share the roads, drive at safe speeds and look twice for motorcyclists. He also says riders should wear full protective gear, including brightly colored jacket, DOT-approved helmet, rider pants, boots and gloves. Most importantly, he encourages riders to get trained.

"Training is a life-saving option that teaches riders crash-avoidance techniques to stay safe on the road," says Shaffer. "Any experience level is welcome, you can never get too much training as a new rider, returning rider or experienced rider."

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.