Motorcycle deaths in Minnesota are up this year, the Department of Public Safety reports. The agency used the statement to implore drivers to be more vigilant.
Seven motorcyclists died in crashes during what the agency called "a deadly July," bringing the state total for 2012 to 26 deaths, up from 23 at this time last year.
So far this year, 191 people have been killed in all traffic crashes on Minnesota roads, 14 percent of them motorcyclists, the agency said.
At this rate, the department projects 46 motorcycle 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.
The agency cited many contributing factors to the deadlier year, including record-high numbers of motorcyclists and early summer-like weather. The first rider death occurred on March 12, the earliest death on record since 2002. Other factors were failure to yield right-of-way, driver inattention and motorcyclist error.
Bill Shaffer, who oversees motorcycle safety for the agency, said riders should wear full protective gear, including brightly colored jackets, helmets, boots and gloves. Most important, he said, is training, which "teaches riders crash-avoidance techniques to stay safe on the road," Shaffer said.