Motorcyclist dies after going into a ditch, the first rider fatality of 2017

It's the second-earliest motorcycle death ever in the state.

A 60-year-old motorcyclist died after crashing into a ditch over the weekend, marking the state's first motorcycle fatality of the year.

A man was killed around 6 p.m. Sunday on Central Street in Sandborn, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said in an email Tuesday. He was negotiating a curve when he went into the ditch.

He was not wearing a helmet. (DPS officials initially said alcohol was believed to be a factor in the crash, but have since said that hasn't yet been determined, pending the outcome of toxicology tests.)

This is the second-earliest motorcycle fatality ever in Minnesota. The earliest happened Feb. 23, back in 2002.

Last year, the first motorcycle death happened on March 7. Preliminary figures show there were 56 motorcycle deaths, and a total of 397 traffic fatalities in 2016.

According to the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety, there have been at least 49 traffic-related deaths in the state this year.

Early start to the riding season

The abnormally warm start to the year has motorcyclists taking advantage of an early riding season.

But officials say riders should be taking extra precautions for a few reasons.

Among them: there's sand an gravel on intersections and turns (spring street sweeping doesn't usually start this early); pavement is uneven; drivers aren't used to seeing motorcycles on the road; and with temperatures cooler at night, snow runoff can freeze.

Riders are also asked to wear full, brightly-colored protective gear and a helmet. They're encouraged to sign up for a training course too – you can find more information on those here.

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