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Ask a Trooper: Motorcycle safety and tips

Q: Can you talk about motorcycle safety and provide tips that can help keep everyone safe on our roadways?

A: One main reason why motorcyclists are killed and injured in crashes are due to the fact that a motorcycle itself provides virtually no protection. The occupant protection that is built in to our passenger cars protects us greatly, but cannot be incorporated on a motorcycle. Nationwide, 80 percent of reported motorcycle crashes result in injury or death; a comparable figure for automobiles is only 20 percent.

In 2015, 39 percent of the motorcycle crashes in Minnesota were single-vehicle crashes. Motorcycle use is at an all-time high and the primary factors involved when they crashed were speeding, inexperience and chemical impairment.

Approximately half of all fatal single-vehicle motorcycle crashes involved alcohol. Driving a motorcycle requires more skill and coordination than driving most other vehicles, and impairment, even at lower levels, diminishes judgment and motor skills greatly.

It is important that a rider choose a motorcycle that they are able to physically handle. Do not buy a motorcycle you cannot push or pull upright by yourself. A motorcycle must be the right fit for the person, and the style of the motorcycle should fit the use.

Almost half of all motorcycle crashes involve a collision with another vehicle. In many crashes, the driver never saw the motorcyclist or did not see the rider until it was too late. There are many reasons why other drivers do not see motorcyclists. It is important for everyone to pay attention and avoid all distractions while driving. We need to be 100 percent attentive when driving any type of motor vehicle. Riders should also wear high-visible protective gear to make sure they are visible out on the roads.

In 2015, one out of seven motorcycle operators involved in a fatal crash did not have a valid endorsement to drive a motorcycle in Minnesota. It is very important for motorcyclists to get proper training by enrolling in a motorcycle-training course. Training is available for beginning to expert riders.

Motorcycle operator tips:

Make eye contact with other drivers. Never assume others see you. Always try to make eye contact with drivers who may be about to pull into your path as they often misjudge your distance and speed. Do not rely on them to make the correct decision.

Look out for hazardous road conditions. Wet roads, fluid spills, sand, gravel, highway sealant, railroad tracks, potholes and other road-surface hazards that reduce your traction.

Be cautious when entering a curve. Traveling too fast and inexperience are contributing factors in failing to negotiate a curve can lead to a loss of control in a curve. Watch the road ahead, slow down and choose the correct lane position before entering a curve.

Wear a helmet. Helmets prevent head injuries. In 2015, in Minnesota 17 (28 percent) of the 61 motorcyclists killed were wearing helmets. There were 1,232 injuries with only 480 (39 percent) of them were wearing helmets. There is no helmet law in Minnesota, unless the operator in under 18 years of age or is operating with a permit. I recommend motorcyclists wear a helmet all the time. Wearing a helmet will help increase your chances of surviving or being seriously injured in a crash.

Wear protective/visible clothing. It can provide some protection during a crash, as well as shield you from the weather and flying debris. Jeans give little protection. Never ride in lightweight pants or shorts. Wear bright, reflective clothing.

Protect your eyes and face. Constant wind can make your eyes water, preventing you from spotting hazards. Flying insects, dust and debris can hurt your eyes and face. The best protection is a full-face helmet with a built-in face shield. Eye protection is required in Minnesota.

Never operate a motorcycle while impaired. Do not speed and watch out for all road hazards, other vehicles and animals. Stay out of other vehicles' blind spots and always have your headlight on.

For information on motorcycle safety, laws, license, training courses and other general topics go to www.motorcyclesafety.org

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send them to Sgt. Neil Dickenson — Minnesota State Patrol at 1131 Mesaba Ave, Duluth, MN 55811, @MSPPIO_NE or neil.dickenson@state.mn.us.

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