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Rice County officials are warning motorcycle drivers to take caution amid an increase in serious crashes.

In a Thursday announcement, the county – which includes Faribault and the surrounding areas south of the Twin Cities – highlighted what it called a "disturbing" trend in motorcycle crashes.

So far this year, there have been 12 serious-injury motorcycle crashes in the county – three of which were fatal. That number matches the total number of crashes for all of 2021, according to the announcement.

“Slow down and pay attention while driving,” Rice County Sheriff Jesse Thomas said in a statement.

“It only takes a few seconds to double check the roadway before pulling out into the traffic lane. Put your phone down and keep your eyes up. Leave yourself adequate spacing so you can react to an unexpected event.”

In two of the serious-injuries crashes, alcohol was a contributing factor. That number is down from last year.

Rice County advised motorcycle drivers to wear a helmet to prevent injury and death in a crash. The county also emphasized the importance of having a driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement before driving.

Of the 64 motorcycle drivers involved in a fatal crash in Minnesota in 2020, 32% didn’t have a valid endorsement, according to the announcement. 

Motorcycles are the most dangerous way to travel in America, with a rate of 212.57 fatalities per billion miles traveled, compared to 7.28 for cars and trucks.

In Minnesota, the fatality rate for motorcyclists is 6.4 per 100 crashes, compared to 0.6 per 100 for all types of motor vehicles combined.

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