With the arrival of better spring weather, more motorcycle drivers are hitting the road.

That means it's time for other drivers to be aware of motorcycle riders when they make turns, change lanes or get near an intersection.

According to Minnesota Department of Public Safety data, there were 44 motorcyclist killed on Minnesota roadways and another 840 seriously injured in 2019.

We can do better than that.

It starts with drivers -- and motorcyclists, as well -- to take precautions. Drivers must remember to start "seeing" motorcycles and for motorcycle riders to practice defensive driving, according to safety experts.

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“One of the most common reasons drivers give for cutting off or pulling out in front of a motorcycle is that they ‘didn’t see it’,” said Meredith Mitts, Minnesota spokeswoman for AAA-The Auto Club Group. “Because motorcyclists are more difficult to see in traffic than larger cars and trucks, motorists should be prepared and look twice before making a lane change or turning left in front of oncoming traffic."

To help make this year safer than years past, AAA offers the following tips:

For motorcyclists

  • Wear safety gear. Helmets that meet Department of Transportation compliance standards, eye wear, closed-toe footwear and protective clothing reduce your risk of injury or death in a crash.
  • Keep headlights, marker and taillights on at dusk and dark, or rainy weather. Wear bright clothing or put reflective strips on your bike to be more visible to other motorists. Avoid being in the blind spots of cars and trucks by following three to four seconds behind the vehicle in front of you.

  • Avoid weaving between lanes while riding. Be sure to use your signals and stick to the speed limit.

  • Be aware of loose sand and gravel placed on roadways.

  • Get proper training. Completing a motorcycle safety course can not only make you a better rider, but save you money on your motorcycle insurance.

“While Minnesota does not have a mandatory helmet use law for motorcyclists 18 or older, the benefits helmets offer are clear,” Mitts explained. “They protect the head in event of a crash.”

According to Minnesota Department of Public Safety information, in 2019 only 14 (32%) of the 44 motorcycle riders killed were known to be wearing a helmet. Of the 840 motorcyclists injured, only 367 (44%) were known to be wearing a helmet.

For motorists

  • Be extra cautious on weekends, when more motorcyclists take to the road.
  • Provide motorcyclists adequate room to maneuver. Follow at least three to four seconds behind them.

  • Allow extra maneuvering room in areas with potholes, pavement transitions and railroad crossings. Motorcyclists may need to slow down, stop or adjust their lane position.

  • Never try to share a lane with a motorcycle. Motorcycles have the same right to a full lane as any other vehicle.

  • If a motorcycle is nearby, check your mirrors carefully before changing lanes. Motorcycles may be in your blind spots or difficult to see because of their smaller size.

  • Don’t drive distracted and be ready for the unexpected.

For more motorcycle safety information and to find local training courses, visit the Motorcycle Safety Foundation website at www.msf-usa.org. Just enter your zip code to find course information, including one offered through the Alexandria Technical and Community College.

Another way to get good information about safe motorcycling is to check out the Freedom First Riders' annual motorcycle show at the Runestone Community Center in Alexandria on May 22-23. The Freedom First Riders are a chapter member of American Bikers for Awareness, Training, and Education (ABATE) of Minnesota, a not-for-profit, grass roots organization that strives to educate motorcyclists and the general public about motorcycling, including reducing accidents and fatalities.