A 53-year-old man from Rockville became the state's 25th motorcycle fatality on Thursday when he crashed his bike on a rural Stearns County road while trying to flee police.
Police tried to stop Jeffrey Wiener man for a traffic violation, but he led them on a pursuit along County Road 75 in St. Augusta. Wiener lost control and his 2006 Harley Davidson went off the road around 9:30 p.m. at the intersection of County Road 7. Weiner, who was not wearing a helmet, was thrown off the bike and pronounced dead at the scene, the State Patrol said.
Motorcycle deaths have risen 56 percent this year when compared to last year at this time when there had been 16. For the year, 2014 saw 46 motorcycle fatalities.
In a disturbing trend, riders over 50 have accounted for the most deaths (12) followed by nine between the ages of 30 and 49. Four riders who have died were in their 20s, officials with the Department of Public Safety said.
"We don't know if it's older men who have taken time off and are just getting back into riding," said Megan Matthews in trying to pinpoint why older riders account for the high numbers of deaths.
As the number of deaths climb, state safety officials are urging motorcyclists of all ages to consider taking a safety course to sharpen their skills.
"Training can save a rider's life," said Bill Shaffer, program coordinator for the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center. "It teaches riders crash-avoidance techniques to stay safe on the road. You can never get too much training as a new rider, returning rider or experienced rider."
Training courses are offered through October, Matthews said.
A review of data shows that 17 of the 25 fatal crashes occurred in rural areas while four occurred in urban settings. The location of one of the fatal crashes was not reported. Eleven of the crashes happened with riders were negotiating a curve while three occurred when the motorcyclist failed to yield.
With the spike in crashes, public safety officials are asking motorcyclists to take safety into their own hands, and for motorists to be cautious when traveling.
"Motorcyclists and motorists need to work together to share the road to prevent more motorcycle fatalities," said Lt. Bob Zak of the Minnesota State Patrol. "It's really unfortunate that there are nine more motorcycle deaths than this time last year, and we need the public's help to keep this number from increasing."