More Older Motorcyclists in MN, Rider Deaths Up
Photo: MGN Online
The number of motorcyclists is climbing in Minnesota - with many baby boomers hitting the road. But most riders aren't taking the state's motorcycle safety classes, according to the state Department of Public Safety.
And this year, fatal motorcycle crashes are on the rise. The latest fatality occurred early Tuesday morning in Maple Grove, where a motorcycle crashed with two people on it, according to police.
One of the motorists died.
"There definitely has been" an increase in riders, said Stephanie Kaufenberg, public safety department spokeswoman.
Last year, Minnesota saw nearly 25,000 more motorcyclists than five years ago. About 56 percent of motorcyclists were age 50 or older.
The rise in motorcycle endorsements began around 2008 - near the time of the recession, Kaufenberg said. Some Minnesotans took up the hobby to save money on rising gas prices.
The trend has kept going. Although 404,967 drivers had motorcycle endorsements in 2012, about 237,000 motorcycles were registered in the state.
Minnesota law requires motorcyclists to have a special driver's license endorsement. Motorists under the age of 18 have to take a Basic Rider Course before getting their endorsement. But adult riders only need to pass a written permit test and a road test.
Motorcycle safety classes aren't required for adults, Kaufenberg said.
And very few people are opting to take the courses. In 2012, about 2 percent of people with motorcycle endorsements took a state or private Basic Rider Course.
As of Aug. 16 - 44 motorcyclists were killed on Minnesota roads. There have been 220 total fatality crashes so far this year in the state. By the same time last year, the state had seen 28 motorcycle deaths.
Motorcyclists represent only 10 percent of the driving population, Kaufenberg said.
And more than half of this year's crashes involved only one vehicle - the motorcycle, she said. Many of the crashes happened because riders couldn't negotiate a curve.
Now, the public safety department is pushing more riders to take its safety training classes. The department offers a Basic Riding Course, a Basic Riding Course 2 and a Civilian Police Motorcycle Course for advanced riders with 3,000 miles under their belt.
"It's a nice challenge too for riders that feel they're comfortable on the bike, Kaufenberg said. The advanced courses teach skills like negotiating U-turns and break-and-escape maneuvers at 40 mph.
Kaufenberg said motorists should be extra vigilant of motorcycles - which are more difficult to spot on the road. Motorists should check their blind spots twice.
Intersections also tend to be the deadliest areas for riders.
For better protection on the road, motorcyclists should wear helmets approved by the Department of Transportation; adequate boots, a jacket, and eye gear - which is required.
Riders under age 18 must wear a helmet, too.
"Their best protection is having that gear on," Kaufenberg said.