Motorcycle crash fatalities down 29 percent from this time last year

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As the motorcycle season in Minnesota winds down, the number of motorcycle crash fatalities is far below what it was at this time last year.

Despite fatal accidents over the weekend, preliminary numbers show there have been 39 motorcycle crash fatalities in Minnesota as of Sept. 23, compared to 55 at the same time last year – that's a 29 percent decrease, an official at the state Department of Public Safety told BringMeTheNews Tuesday.

Bill Shaffer, the state Department of Public Safety's motorcycle safety coordinator, told BringMeTheNews there are three things that may be contributing to the drop in rider fatalities so far this year:

  • Minnesota hasn't had any deer crash fatalities involving motorcycles this year, which accounted for seven rider deaths in 2013.
  • Last year there were seven passenger fatalities, while only three passenger fatalities have been confirmed this year.
  • The number of registered motorcycles declined slightly in 2013 – the first decline since 1996 – which may be impacting the number of riders on the road.

The total number of traffic deaths to date in Minnesota is at 251; at this time last year there were 263, according to the state Department of Public Safety. In 2013, there were a total 387 traffic deaths – 60 of those involved motorcyclists.

Weekend crashes

A spate of motorcycle accidents over the weekend however resulted in multiple fatalities and injuries. On Sunday afternoon, two riders were ejected when their motorcycle hit the wall of an overpass while traveling from northbound Highway 100 to eastbound 394, according to a state patrol incident report.

The driver, Brian Barth, 53, of Dassel, Minnesota, and his passenger, 58-year-old Maxine Shaw, of Somerset, Wisconsin, were killed in the crash, the state patrol says.

There was also a non-fatal crash involving a St. Paul motorcyclist over the weekend. St. Paul police are asking for the public's help in the hit-and-run accident involving Alejandro Martinez, 42, who suffered a mild head injury when he was hit by another vehicle while riding south on Dale Street near Minnehaha Avenue the morning of Sept. 15, the Pioneer Press reports.

A White Bear Lake woman died several days after being injured in a Sept. 13 motorcycle crash near Buffalo. Janice Theisen, 57, died Friday afternoon at Hennepin County Medical Center, according to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner.

Other crashes involved Minnesotans, but happened out of state, which doesn't add to the Department of Public Safety's tally of motorcycle fatalities. In one accident, Dr. Ernest W. Swihart Jr., 71, a longtime behavioral pediatrician from Minnetonka who had a life-saving liver transplant last year, died after crashing into a tree on his motorcycle while on an annual camping trip in South Dakota.

A crash involving two motorcycles in Maiden Rock, Wisconsin, Saturday afternoon killed a Minneapolis woman and injured a man from Savage, WCCO reports. Diane Wick, 58, was driving southbound when she went off the road, then veered back onto the road, but reportedly overcorrected. That's when David Friestad, 66, crashed into her, the news station says.

In a second incident in the Wisconsin city Saturday, motorcyclist Harold Risley, 70, of St. Paul, was critically injured when his motorcycle hit the rear of another vehicle around 5:30 p.m., the Pioneer Press says.

A Minnesota man failed to negotiate a curve in the road near Milbank, South Dakota, Thursday when he drove into the ditch and lost control of his motorcycle, KDLT reports. Daniel Arthur Hoffenkamp, 45, of Hawick, Minnesota, died from his injuries. He wasn't wearing a helmet.

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