State motorcycle deaths jumped to 10 in first 14 days of July with latest crashes in southeastern Minnesota.
Motorcycle fatalities statewide continue to grow, with the two most recent victims dying in separate southeastern Minnesota crashes.
The most recent occurred late Sunday in Goodhue County when a motorcycle left County Road 11 on a sharp curve and struck a road sign about 10 miles west of Pine Island, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Killed was Raymond Bartz, 55, of West Concord, Minn. He was wearing a helmet.
Bartz is the 10th person in Minnesota to die in a motorcycle crash in the first 14 days of July and the 31st so far this year.
June through September are typically the deadliest months for motorcyclists in Minnesota, according to figures compiled by the state Department of Public Safety.
Ten motorcyclists were killed in June of this year; 55 died in all of 2012.
Also Sunday, Matthew J. Gerwill died from head injuries suffered in a crash shortly after 12:45 a.m. along 23rd Street SE. in Rochester, police said. Gerwill was taken to St. Marys Hospital in critical condition and died that day.
“He was taking a corner and lost it,” police Capt. John Sherwin said. He said Gerwill was not wearing a helmet and suffered fatal head injuries. Otherwise, “the guy probably just [would have] had some road rash” from putting his motorcycle down, the captain added.
Of the 26 motorcycle fatalities this year for which details on helmets were available, 18 riders were not wearing helmets. Although adult riders are not required to wear helmets in Minnesota, the Department of Public Safety said they should be worn by everyone, along with brightly colored protective gear for improved visibility.
A bill pursued in the most recent legislative session to coax riders to wear helmets failed to get traction. Led by Rep. Diane Loeffler, DFL-Minneapolis, the legislation called for insurance companies to charge higher premiums for riders who decide to go without a helmet.
She said her thinking was that “if you’re going to make that personal decision, then you need to take the personal responsibility and provide for insurance that takes care of you and your family if you have a terrible accident.”
She said those badly hurt on motorcycles eventually “spend down everything they’ve got, and then it goes onto the taxpayers” for continued intensive and long-term care.
As for requiring helmets for all Minnesota riders, Loeffler said, “I don’t see that we can get the majority of votes to pass that at this time.”
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482