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Editorial - Here's how to reduce your odds of getting in a motorcycle crash

It's time to sound an alert about motorcycle safety.

Drivers need to start seeing motorcycles on the road and motorcyclists need to have the skills to reduce their chances of getting into a crash.

According to information released this week by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS), more motorcyclists have died this year on state roads compared to last year at this time.

As of July 9, 26 riders have lost their lives in 2013; there were 18 motorcycle deaths at this time last year.

Already in July, five riders have died, including three on July 4 in two separate crashes. That follows a deadly June when 10 riders were killed, making it the deadliest month for riders in 2013.

So far this year, there have been 162 traffic fatalities in Minnesota, 16 percent of which are riders. There were 55 motorcyclist deaths in 2012.

DPS officials point to many of the same contributing factors for the rider deaths this year including motorcyclist's error and failure to yield the right-of-way. Here are facts from the DPS that shed light on factors that have an impact on fatal crashes:

Age: 46 percent of the motorcyclists killed were older than 50; 31 percent were younger than 30.

Deer: Two of the fatal crashes involved a collision with deer, a common trend within the last decade. During 2002-2012, 43 motorcyclists have been killed in crashes with deer.

Helmet use: Of the 22 motorcyclists with helmet-use cited in crash reports, more than half, 15 of them, were not wearing a helmet. Seven riders were wearing a helmet.

Contributing factors: Nearly half of the crashes involved another vehicle. In the motorcycle-only crashes, failure to negotiate a curve was cited eight times.

Location: More than 60 percent of the crashes occurred in a rural area and more than one-third in the 12-county metro area.

Bill Shaffer, program coordinator with the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center, 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 a department of transportation-approved helmet, brightly colored jacket, 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."

The Alexandria Technical and Community College is again offering the Basic Rider Motorcycle course this summer at the college.

The course is 14 1/2 hours in length and combines practice riding, classroom discussion and a pre-course homework assignment.

The classroom discussion helps prepare riders for the on-cycle portions of the course and provides critical knowledge needed for street riding.

Topics include protective gear, mind and machine preparation, risk management, rider responsibility, street strategies, special riding situations and alcohol.

For more information or to register, contact the Customized Training Department at (320) 762-4490.