Reporting Chris Simon
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — More motorcyclists have died this year on Minnesota roads compared to last year at this time, according to officials with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
Officials said 26 riders have lost their lives in 2013. There were 18 motorcycle deaths at this time last year.
Already in July five riders have died, including three on the Fourth of July in two separate crashes, and a couple in their 50s on Monday. Only one of those victims wore a helmet, prompting the Department of Public Safety to renew its call for all motorcycle riders to wear their helmets.
“We recommend that everyone wear full protective gear when riding and that includes a U.S. Department of Transportation-approved helmet. We also want to see folks wearing motorcycle specific jackets, eyewear and boots,” said Bill Schaeffer, a motorcycle training specialist.
Although a public outcry usual follows a jump in fatalities, Schaeffer said any changes in policy or a mandating helmet use must come through the legislature, not the DPS.
“We work within the framework of our current law, and that law gives licensed operators and their passengers over the age of 18 the choice, to wear a helmet or not,” he said.
Schaeffer said he believes that common sense should also play a role in how someone suits up to ride. He said the numbers “do not lie,” and a national study shows that a rider’s survival rate in a crash jumps by nearly 40 percent if that rider is wearing a helmet.
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“The statistics show that helmets are 37 percent effective in saving lives in crashes, and that is significant,” he says.
Schaeffer takes time out to invite riders of all ages to take advantage of the DPS motorcycle training and safety programs that take place periodically throughout the state during the riding season.
“We do training classes where we stress the use of proper protective gear and we love to see people, everyone in the state wear a helmet,” said Schaeffer.
Greg Pierce, a motorcycle training coordinator at Century College, says most accidents are the result of a lack of training and speed.
Forty-six percent of riders killed this year were over the age of 50.
“It’s the group that’s 40 to 64 years old, a lot of those riders have never had any formal training whatsoever,” Pierce said.
Only riders under 18 are required to take a training course.
Pierce says with many baby boomers latching on to riding, training is a big concern, and so is helmet use.