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Minnesota traffic deaths surpass 200 for 2014

WORTHINGTON — Preliminary reports released Monday show that two motorcycle fatalities — one last week in Wright County, and one Sunday night in Rochester — have contributed to 204 people losing their lives on Minnesota roads so far in 2014. The number of deaths is 16 fewer than were reported by this time last year, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety.

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According to the DPS, Nobles County had one traffic fatality and one serious injury accident so far in 2014. Neither involved a motorcyclist.

However, the DPS reported that so far Nobles County had four motorcyclist injuries this year.

To help bring safety to Minnesota roads this month, nearly 400 law enforcement agencies statewide are focusing on drunk drivers now through Labor Day, Sept. 1, as part of an enhanced enforcement campaign.

“As summer winds down, we don’t want people to become statistics in our fatal crash reports because of poor choices behind the wheel,” said Donna Berger, Office of Traffic Safety director. “Motorists have to make a conscious decision to slow down, buckle up, drive sober and focus on the road.”

Of the 204 traffic deaths to date this year, 31 were motorcycle fatalities. Out of the 220 traffic fatalities reported last year at this time, 44 were motorcycle deaths.

Driver distraction and speeding are among the top contributors to crashes, but alcohol is the top culprit in traffic fatalities. Drunk driving has been responsible for one out of every five traffic fatalities.

In 2013, officers arrested 25,719 motorists for DWI, and one in seven Minnesota drivers has a DWI. Officials stress the importance of planning ahead for a sober ride and offering to be a sober driver.

Motorcycle safety

We’re still in the dog days of August, and according to DPS Motorcycle Safety Coordinator Bill Shaffer, motorcyclists are not putting away their bikes just yet.

Shaffer explained that there are a few safety tips for drivers of both motorcycles and vehicles that are necessary when talking about motorcycle safety.

“For motorcyclists, there are three things we really hit on, the first being to attend training regularly, whether it’s just a few basic refresher courses all the way up to advanced courses that police motorcyclists attend,” Shaffer said.

Shaffer explained that the training courses sharpen rider’s defensive driving skills and teach them to avoid accidents.

“Riders need to have a good strategy, but sometimes when that strategy fails and there is an accident, they need to have good judgment skills,” Shaffer said.

The second thing Shaffer recommended for motorcycle riders is always wearing protective gear.

“Even though it’s supposed to be very warm the rest of the month, riders need to wear all protective gear,” Shaffer said. “We suggest that riders wear Department of Transportation (DOT) approved helmets, clothing items and accessories.”

Shaffer continued to explain the third important piece that motorcyclists need to abide by — sobriety.

“Riding sober is probably one of the top things we stress in training,” Shaffer said. “About one-third of motorcyclists who are involved in an accident were over the drinking limit, so we really stress to separate drinking from driving.”

Drivers operating a vehicle also need to be aware of a few safety tips while motorcyclists are still on the road.

“About 40 percent of all motorcycle crashes are because a driver of a vehicle failed to yield to a motorcyclist. That’s a huge number,” Shaffer said.

Shaffer listed a couple of factors that go into why that percentage is so high.

“A common factor is simply that people just don’t see the motorcycle,” he said. “The newer vehicles today have the extra wide pillars, which are great for crash safety, but it causes what is known as a pillar blind spot.”

Shaffer also noted that just like with vehicle accidents, people are often in a hurry and don’t take the time to look before they merge.

“The second common factor is drivers may see the motorcyclists, but since it’s a much smaller target, it’s hard for people to judge how far away or close the motorcycle is,” Shaffer said.

“Drivers need make sure they give themselves and the motorcyclist enough room before they merge,” he added.

By following these tips, Shaffer said, all motorists can have an enjoyable and safe rest of the summer.

“Since summer isn’t quite over with yet, motorists and riders need to be aware of motorcycle safety,” he added.

For more information or to sign up for training, visit

Erin Trester
Erin Trester is the crime and city reporter for the Daily Globe. She's a native of Lewiston, MN, but moved to Buffalo, NY to attend college and obtained her bachelor's degree in Communications. She started at the Western New York Catholic Newspaper as a reporter in Buffalo, but in October 2013 she returned to her home state to start with the Daily Globe. Most of her spare time is taken up by her 13-year-old thoroughbred named Faith, but some of her other hobbies include reading, fishing and spending time with friends and family. 
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