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Weekend crashes kill eight on Minnesota roads

September 6-9 was among the deadliest weekend periods of the year, joining April 5-7 (10 deaths), May 31-June 2 (eight), and July 26-28 (seven).

The weekend fatalities include a 20-year-old male motorist hit by a suspected drunk driver in Minneapolis early Monday, September 9. The fatal crashes occurred in the counties of Anoka, Carver, Hennepin, Otter Tail, Renville, St. Louis and Watonwan.

Officials are urging motorists to buckle up, pay attention, drive at safe speeds and drive sober.

Three of the eight weekend deaths were motorcyclists. To date in 2013, there have been 53 rider deaths, putting the state on pace for 68 deaths for 2013, up from 55 rider deaths in 2012. The highest number of motorcyclist deaths on record is 1980 when 121 were killed.

The Department of Public Safety officials say there's no clear indicator for the increase in deaths, but common crash factors are playing a role including rider error and motorist failure to yield the right-of-way.

Key findings in 2013 motorcycle fatal crashes include:

â-- Age: 64 percent of the motorcyclists killed were older than 45; 19 percent were younger than 30. Young riders (30 or younger) represent 1 percent of the total driving population, and older riders (45 or older) are only 7 percent of the total driving population. Together these riders represent 20 percent of the total traffic deaths to-date.

â-- Contributing factors: There have been 50 fatal crashes resulting in the 53 rider deaths. More than half of the fatal crashes involved only the motorcycle; failure to negotiate a curve was cited 19 times. The remaining crashes involved another vehicle, of which failure to yield the right-of-way was cited nine times.

â-- Deer: Six of the fatal crashes involved a collision with a deer, matching 2007, the highest number of deer deaths on record. During 2002-2012, 43 motorcyclists were killed in a crash with a deer, four times more than between 1991-2000 (10 deaths). This year is on pace to be the deadliest with deer.

â-- Helmet use: Helmet use is known in 42 of the 53 rider deaths. Of those, 31 were not wearing a helmet; only 12 riders were wearing a helmet.

â-- Location: More than 60 percent of the crashes occurred in a rural area; 28 percent of the crashes occurred in the seven-county metro area. The top six deadliest counties include Hennepin (six); Goodhue and St. Louis (four each); Crow Wing, Dakota and Olmsted (three each).

DPS offers these safety tips for motorists and riders to ensure a safe riding environment:

â-- 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, drive at safe speeds and drive sober.

â-- Riders: Wear protective gear, including a DOT-approved helmet, riding gloves, boots, pants, jacket and eye protection. Pay attention to riding, ride at safe speeds and ride sober. DPS advises riders to take safety training courses to hone skills.

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