Motorcycle accidents in Minnesota: 4 crashes in 3 days, 2 more fatalities

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Another series of motorcycle accidents in Minnesota the past few days is bringing another round of warnings from public safety officials.

3 days: 4 accidents, 2 deaths

-The most recent fatality is a Minneapolis man who died Friday night in Otter Tail County after his motorcycle went off the road and hit a tree, according to KSTP.

Kurt Ophus, 54, was riding on County Highwy 134 about 8:30 Friday night when he apparently lost control of his cycle and struck the tree. He was taken to an area hospital, were he was pronounced dead a short time later.

- On Thursday, another motorcyclist was killed when he was thrown from his vehicle while trying to elude police. Jeffrey Wiener, 53, of Rockville, Minn., was being pursued by Stearns County officers on County Highway 75 south of St. Cloud around 9:30 p.m. Thursday for a traffic violation. Wiener's Harley-Davidson veered off the road; he was thrown off the cycle and died at the scene.

- Two motorcyclists were injured in an accident Friday in central Minnesota, when their cycles collided on Minnesota Highway 23, according to the St. Cloud Times. One driver lost control of his motorcycle and crashed into the other one. Both men were treated for their injuries at a local hospital.

- In yet another motorcycle accident Saturday afternoon, two people were injured when their motorcycle crashed into another vehicle on Interstate 35 in Lakeville.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press said Donald Zollars, 57, of St. James lost control of his Harley-Davidson when he slowed down for traffic in the northbound lane. The motorcycle skidded along the shoulder and then rolled. His wife, Dawn Zollars, 51 was a passenger on the cycle and she was seriously injured.

Deadlier year for motorcyclists

The number of motorcyclists who've died in traffic accidents so far this year is significantly higher than last year - 26 riders compared to 16 last year, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Do the math, and that's a 56 percent increase. It's also the highest number for this period of time since the state began keeping records. That compares to only 46 motorcycle fatalities all of last year.

DPS officials are asking both motorcyclists and motorists driving cars and trucks to be more vigilant.

“Motorcyclists and motorists need to work together to share the road to prevent more motorcycle fatalities,” says Lt. Bob Zak, Minnesota State Patrol.

According to the DPS, 14 of the riders who were killed were not wearing helmets at the time, and 17 of the fatal accidents occurred in rural areas.

Many of the fatal accidents were caused, at least in part, by driver errors. The agency said riders in 11 of the accidents failed to negotiate a curve. Three others were caused by a second vehicle failing to yield.

There are more than 236,000 registered motorcycles and more than 414,000 licensed operators in Minnesota, the DPS notes.

Prevention efforts

Officials have made several public pleas already this year calling for more caution on the highways.

The DPS is urging riders to take motorcycle safety classes; protect themselves by wearing helmets, protective and reflective clothing; and not drinking and driving.

Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center (MMSC) Program Coordinator Bill Shaffer says training courses, even for experienced riders, are always a good idea.

“Training can save a rider’s life,” said Shaffer. “It teaches riders crash-avoidance techniques to stay safe on the road. You can never get too much training as a new rider, returning rider or experienced rider.”

The MMSC has information about motorcycle training courses and other safety tips on its website.

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