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Participation in motorcycle safety classes low as motorcyclist deaths add up in Minnesota


ST. CLOUD, Minnesota — At least 31 motorcyclists have died on Minnesota roads so far this year, accounting for more than 18 percent of all traffic deaths, according to the State Patrol.

That's nearly double the amount of motorcycle deaths at the same time last year, and motorcycle safety coordinator Bill Shaffer of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said he wouldn't be surprised if the state surpasses 80 motorcycle deaths this year for the first time since the early 1980s.

State law doesn't require motorcycle training, but many crashes are caused by rider error and inexperience, Shaffer told the St. Cloud Times (http://on.sctimes.com/1LWUbtF ). Significantly more crashes this year have occurred when motorcycles run off the road at curves, which can be difficult for riders who haven't learned the concept of counter-steering, he said.

"Some of the inexperience you see is dangerous," said Tom Travaglio, who teaches motorcycle safety training courses held by St. Cloud Technical & Community College. "You see people on the roads who can't shift, can't balance."

Those types of things are taught at training courses offered by Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center at 28 locations across the state, Shaffer said. But motorcycle safety classes aren't getting as many participants as the Department of Public Safety would like to see, he said.

Minnesota has more than 414,000 licensed riders, but only 300 to 400 motorcyclists participate each year in a safety class beyond the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center's first Basic Rider Course, which prepares motorcycle novices to pass the road test they need to earn their motorcycle license. About 60 percent of motorcyclists take that course before earning their license.

Some riders also believe aggressive or inattentive vehicle drivers are to blame for motorcycle danger. However, the safety classes also teach riders how to remain visible to drivers, and how to anticipate and react to the chains of events that often lead to crashes, Travaglio said.

"I think there's a confidence, an alpha-male factor, trying to prove to somebody that you don't need this," he said of the reason why some riders likely don't take more advanced safety classes. "I rode for 26 years before I took this class, and I wish I would have taken it right away.

"Probably would have saved me some road rash."

Information from: St. Cloud Times, http://www.sctimes.com

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