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27 have already died on motorcycles, safety urged ahead of Sturgis rally

ST. PAUL -- Safety officials remind motorcyclists and motorists to drive carefully and share the road, as thousands of riders hit the highway for the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D., which begins next week. August and September are historically high in motorcyclist deaths.

To-date in 2009, 27 riders have died on Minnesota roads, compared to 25 at this time last year. There were 72 motorcyclist fatalities in 2008, the most since 1985. Motorcycles make up less than 5 percent of all registered vehicles, but represented nearly 16 percent of the 455 motor vehicle fatalities last year. There are nearly 225,000 registered motorcycles in Minnesota, a record high.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety reports the most common factors attributed to motorcycle riders in crashes are speed, inexperience, inattention and impairment--all within the rider's control. Motorcyclists should slow down, ride within their limits, stay focused and ride sober. Last year, 47 percent of riders killed had been using alcohol--42 percent were over the legal limit of .08.

Vehicle drivers also share responsibility for motorcyclists' safety. According to Cheri Marti, director of the DPS Office of Traffic Safety, nearly half of all motorcycle crashes involve another vehicle. Marti emphasizes that because motorcycles are smaller than other vehicles, it is more difficult to judge their speed and distance.

"Watch carefully for motorcycle riders this weekend, and expect to see them throughout the summer and well into fall," says Marti.