The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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January 4, 2013

Increase in motorcycle deaths pushes up road fatality numbers

MANKATO — For the first time in five years traffic deaths increased in Minnesota for 2012 and a spike in motorcycle crashes is being cited as a main factor.

There were 378 people killed in crashes last year compared to 368 deaths in 2011.

Although the numbers were up for 2012, the total number of deaths on Minnesota roads in last year was still the second lowest it has been since 1944, said Lt. Eric Roeske, State Patrol public information officer.

“Of course we always want numbers to go down, but we’re still making progress when you look at historical figures,” he said. “Especially when you look at the early 2000s when we had more than 650 deaths per year.”

The number of people killed while driving cars, trucks and SUVs was actually down to 281 in 2012 from 283 in 2011. And the same number of pedestrians, 38, were killed in traffic crashes both years.

The number of motorcyclists killed increased from 42 in 2011 to 53 in 2012. There also were six bicyclists killed last year, up from five in 2011.

In Blue Earth County traffic deaths dropped from eight in 2011 to five in 2012, but two of last years fatalities were from motorcycle crashes in Mankato.  Zachary Abdo, 20, of North Mankato died from injuries he received when he crashed his motorcycle on Raintree Road on Aug. 31. Jeni Johnson, 35, of Vernon Center was killed Sept. 24. She was thrown from her motorcycle when she attempted to stop for a car that pulled out in front of her on Highway 22 from the South Victory Drive intersection.

Roeske said a warm winter and an early start to the motorcycle season likely contributed to the increase in motorcycle deaths in 2012, which had already surpassed 2011’s numbers before the end of September. But he said the warm weather might also be to blame for other traffic deaths not going down more than they did.

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