Last year, an all-time high of 225,000 motorcycles were registered in Minnesota — twice as many as in 1996. And with that increase came a rise in crashes, injuries and deaths. More than 1,500 motorcycle riders were hurt and 72 killed in crashes last year, the highest number of fatalities in more than 20 years.
Minnesota Department of Public Safety experts offer several ways to bring down those rates. Most accidents result from poor driving skills, inexperience, speed or alcohol, they say. Therefore bikers would do well to pursue additional training. More than 10,000 new licenses are issued each year, yet only 400 people take advanced courses to learn about safety techniques.
Driving sober is crucial for all drivers, but especially so when they are operating more vulnerable, two-wheeled vehicles. Alcohol slows down reaction time and impairs judgment; motorcyclists must take special care to keep their wits about them.
And motorcyclists should always wear protective gear — heavy pants, reflective clothing and, most important, helmets. Head trauma is the leading cause of injury and death in two-wheeled-vehicle crashes, and costs the nation more than $1 billion in medical care. That’s why Minnesota should adopt a mandatory motorcycle helmet law.
Other drivers must take responsibility, too, since about a quarter of motorcycle crashes are caused by the other driver. So, as the bumper sticker suggests, drivers must start seeing motorcycles. Because of the size difference, it is easy for an automobile driver to misjudge the speed and distance of a motorcycle or to lose a biker in a blind spot. All drivers should take extra care to look out for bikes and scooters.
Overall, Minnesota road safety has improved in recent years; only motorcycle mishaps are on the rise. To reverse that troubling trend, all motorists should ramp up efforts to observe basic rules of the road and drive defensively.