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Safety Spotlight: Minnesota Motorcycle Accidents and Fatalities on the Rise


June 2014

The arrival of pleasant Minnesota weather has drawn more people out riding motorcycles lately, which has unfortunately resulted in more motorcycle accidents on the road. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (MNDPS), a total of five people died in motorcycle crashes last week in Minnesota. This brought the total of motorcycle-related fatalities to 11 for the year. 

According to officials, four of the five people killed last week were not wearing helmets, and one of those fatalities was Iraq War veteran Patrick Rix. Minnesota has a law requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets, but it is limited to people under the age of 18 and those who have learner’s permits.

Making the Roads Safer

Because of the recent fatalities, officials have issued safety recommendations for both motorcycle riders and other drivers. For example, Minneapolis Police Spokesman John Elder suggested that drivers look twice to make sure that there aren’t any motorcycles around them. He also strongly suggests that riders wear helmets.

Last year, 60 percent of motorcycle riders wore helmets that complied with federal safety standards. Another 30 percent opted not to wear them. A total of 90 percent of the population wore helmets in states where they are required for everyone. In contrast, only 50 percent of riders wore them in states without a requirement.

Opposition to Helmet Laws

Amongst the riding community, there are people who oppose helmet laws even if they regularly wear them when they ride. One of them is Jim Dahling who believes that his right to choose is what is important. Although he is against helmet laws, he opts to wear a helmet most of the time. 

An Increase in Fatalities

Motorcycle fatalities have been increasing in Minnesota and across the nation. They peaked in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and they even decreased in the ‘90s, but that all changed starting in 1997. Between that year and 2008, the number of deaths doubled. In 2008, 72 people lost their lives in motorcycle crashes, and this was the highest number of fatalities since 1985.

Officials have given two main reasons that motorcycle crashes occurred in Minnesota last year. The first is the fact that motorcycle riders were traveling above the speed limit. Second, at-fault motorists neglected to yield to motorcyclists.

Safety Tips for Motorists and Motorcyclists

To help prevent future motorcycle accidents, the Office of Traffic Safety released safety tips for both motorists and motorcyclists. For motorists, they suggest the following:

  • Watch for motorcyclists
  • Look twice before changing lanes or entering roadways
  • Give riders plenty of space
  • Regularly check blind spots
  • Don’t drive faster than the speed limit
  • Pay attention

Motorcyclists are advised to do the following:

  • Wear protective gear that is highly visible
  • Wear a helmet that has been approved by the Department of Transportation
  • Wear goggles and riding pants
  • Wear a motorcycle jacket and boots that are brightly colored
  • Take beginner and advanced training classes

Bill Shaffer is the program coordinator for the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center, and he explained why training is very important for riders especially if they haven’t been on their motorcycles for several years. He states that riding takes skill and judgment, and people can lose these skills when they are not riding on a regular basis.

Have You Been Injured in a Motorcycle Accident?

If you or a loved one has been hurt or killed in a motorcycle accident, contact Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben for a free consultation. Our lawyers have several years of experience defending the rights of motorcycle riders who have been injured in crashes, and they bring a unique perspective to their work. Attorneys Jim Schwebel and Paul Godlewski are also motorcycle riders, so they can approach this issue with an understanding that non-riders do not have.

An attorney will be necessary if you have sustained injuries that significantly changed your life. You may need monetary compensation that will pay for several years of medical treatment. You may need to outfit your house so that it can accommodate your new circumstances. Contact Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben today so that they can get started on your case right away. Call (612) 377-7777 or toll-free at 1-800-752-4265.

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