The Free Press, Mankato, MN

September 30, 2012

Our View: Be aware of motorcycles

The Free Press

— Motorcycle ridership is at a record high and with that has come a significant increase in motorcyclist crashes and fatalities.

September was a tragedy-filled month on the road. The death last week of Jeni Johnson, 35, of Vernon Center after her motorcycle crashed on Highway 22 in Mankato was the ninth life lost during the month in motorcycle crashes.

The number of fatalities was 48 as of Sept. 24 and already has surpassed the 42 fatalities for all of last year.

And with fall well under way, deer-motorcycle crashes typically increase. Last year, five of the 42 deaths occurred as a result of cycles hitting deer.

No doubt that the overall popularity of riding has increased the chances of crashes. More than 230,000 registered motorcycles and more than 400,000 licensed operators live in the state, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Drivers need to step up their awareness of motorcyclists. Distracted driving and more motorcycles on the road don’t mix. The faster motorists go, the less chance of seeing motorcycles, which are smaller and can be hidden by blind spots. That second or so of looking down to text or pick up the cellphone can mean the end of a life.

Motorcyclists have a responsibility to drive the speed limit and do what they can to protect themselves on the road. That includes wearing protective gear, paying attention and riding sober. The state reports that the leading crash factors for rider deaths are rider error, alcohol use and motorists’ failure to yield.

Motorcyclists take to the road for various reasons, whether it be the freedom and feel of the open road to saving money at the gas pump. Whatever the reason, motorcycles are a common sight on the state’s roads and drivers need to do what they can to avoid adding to the deadly trend of crash fatalities.