By Clay Schuldt
NEW ULM - Minnesota drivers are once again sharing the roads with motorcyclists. The warm weather has led many to bring their bikes out of winter storage and travel the open roads.
In 2014, Minnesota is off to an optimistic start in terms of increased motorcycle traffic. Preliminary data from the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Task Force shows that in April no fatal motorcycle accidents occurred in Minnesota
This marks a positive shift in traffic safety trends compared to the last few years. Only a single motorcycle fatality has occurred this year in Minnesota. In terms of motorcycle safety this is the best record in 24 years according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS).
The spring season often poses the greatest hazards for motorcyclists. Leftover sand and gravel from the winter season is still present on roadways. Other dangers included motorists readjusting to sharing the roads with motorcycles.
In May the Motorcycle Cycle Safety Center is promoting an awareness initiative to "Start Seeing Motorcycles." As the motorcycle season comes to full swing the Center advises motorists to watch for bikers. Keep in mind speed and distance of motorcycles are harder to judge due to their size and always give give ample room when passing.
As for motorcyclists, all riders should wear appropriate gear including a helmet, eye protection, riding pants, and a bright colored jacket. The Safety Center also advises taking a training course before hitting the open road.
Last year the DPS named New Ulm City Manager Brian Gramentz to the Motorcycle Safety Advisory Task Force. The goal of the task force is to improve the safety of riders and their passengers. The task force is also linked to Towards Zero Deaths road safety initiative. This task force was formed during an increase in motorcycle related fatalities that started in 2008. In 2012, 55 motorcycle deaths were reported in Minnesota, an increase of 33 from 2011.
While 2014 is off to a good start with the best record since 1990; the motorcycle season is far from over. The hope is that as the number of motorcycle riders increase, motorcycle safety increases as well.