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Officials urge motorcycle safety as season gets off to an early start

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Public officials are urging safety as motorcycle riding season gets off to an early – and deadly – start.

This comes a day after a rider and passenger were killed in a crash Monday. Duane Bixler, 52, of Fridley, was driving the motorcycle when he went through a red light and hit a minivan. He and his passenger, 49-year-old Joni Sue Miranda of St. Paul, were both killed, the Anoka County Sheriff's Office says.

The incident marks the second-earliest motorcycle fatality ever in Minnesota, the state Department of Safety says. The earliest motorcycle death happened Feb. 23, 2002.

Last year, the first rider death of the season occurred March 15. During the 2015 riding season, there were 61 motorcycle fatalities, up from the 44 in 2014, preliminary numbers show.

“It’s the time of year when motorcyclists and motorists need to be extra cautious out on the roads,” Bill Shaffer, with the Department of Public Safety, said the news release. “Riders haven’t been out on the road for a few months, so it’s a good idea for them to take some time to brush up on their skills. Motorists also need to remember to look twice for motorcycles.”

As the warm weather continues, the agency is reminding riders to wear full, brightly-colored protective gear and a helmet, to drive at safe speeds, pay attention, don't follow too closely and to ride sober. Safety officials are also encouraging riders to take a training class.

The Department of Public Safety is also asking motorists to keep an eye out for motorcycles, and to look twice before turning or changing lanes.

There are more than 236,000 registered motorcycles in the state, with more than 414,000 people licensed to drive them, the Department of Public Safety says.

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