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Mike Bryant
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Too Many Motorcyclists Are Dying On Minnesotan Roads

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The number of motorcycle riders in Minnesota continue to grow. Experts have been pointing to high gas prices, overall economics, and the advantages concerning parking as the reason for the trend. Others just point out the joy of getting out on the open road. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety numbers show 112,551 registered riders in 1996, 149,000 in 2002 and 224,625 in 2008. Two percent of all vehicles on the nation’s roads last year were motorcycles, yet they were involved in 11 percent of all traffic accidents, leaving slightly more than 5,100 riders dead and 103,000 injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This summer has produced a couple of tragedies.

While the numbers for motor vehicle deaths has dropped over the past two years, deaths from motorcycles have tripled, from a record low of 24 in 1997 to recent high of 72 in 2008. That is the highest number of fatal crashes in past 24 years. So far this year is on pace to meet that number. The steady rise in motorcycle crashes has become a top concern of the U.S. Department of Transportation, said Secretary Mary Peters, who broke her collarbone a few years ago when she crashed her Harley-Davidson Road King at 40 mph.

To address the problem, the Transportation Department is developing national standards for entry-level riders and has launched an educational campaign on the importance of wearing helmets and other safety gear. Congress has also become involved, authorizing $2 million to study crash causes.

For every driver and rider it’s important that the following be kept in mind:

1. Yield the right-of-way.

2. Start seeing motorcycles.

3. When on a motorcycle, make sure people see you.

4. When just starting to ride, make sure you have the correct training.

The road is big enough for everyone.

A recent Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial got a number of comments after it made the following suggestions to deal with the increase:

  • Increased training of new drivers.
  • More emphasis on sober riding.
  • The Increased use of safety equipment.
  • Drivers paying more attention on the roads.

The discussion about helmets dominated most of the responses. Clearly, this is one there may not ever be an agreement on, but as to the other suggestions, they really make a lot of sense. Every new driver needs to get the all important training that riding a motorcycle isn’t like a bike or a car.

As an attorney who has represented a large number of riders, I’ve seen the devastation caused by car/bike collisions. As with any death in a Minnesota motor vehicle collision, there are a number of issues that will need to be reviewed. My partner, Joe Crumley, addressed this topic in a recent article for the Minnesota Lawyers Trial magazine. I was interviewed last year on the same topic.

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  1. Daniel 8791 says:
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    While the numbers regarding the accidents and fatalities are quite sad to see, I’m pleased to see that the Transportation Department is going to try something to help correct this situation. A young man that I used to hang around with, lost his leg in a motorcycle accident about 5 years ago. I’m pretty sure that his age and inexperience were the primary factors in his accident. Too bad for him that he didn’t (or wasn’t) trained better at his young age, but hopefully more thorough training and knowledge will help bring these overall accident numbers down.