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Motorcycle deaths top 2014 total on Minnesota roads

More motorcycle enthusiasts have died on Minnesota highways so far this year than in all of 2014, state officials reported Monday, and there are still several weeks left in the riding season.

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More motorcycle enthusiasts have died on Minnesota highways so far this year than in all of 2014, state officials reported Monday, and there are still several weeks left in the riding season.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety reports 47 people have died in motorcycle accidents this year compared to 46 in 2014.

That total is up 47 percent from this time last year.

Highway safety officials say there is no single reason for the increase but said common themes are emerging.

More than half of the riders didn't have a helmet, and more than half the crashes involved only the motorcycle and no other vehicle, said Bill Shaffer of the Department of Public Safety Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center.

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"These are preventable. We strongly encourage riders to take a training course, wear full protective gear and slow down. It could save their life," Shaffer said in a statement.

Accident investigators say failure to yield continues to be the most-cited contributing factor in fatal motorcycle crashes.

Over the last decade motorcycle deaths in Minnesota have ranged from a low of 42 in 2011 to a high of 72 in 2008, with 60 deaths in 2013.

According to Monday's report:

• In this year's 47 fatal cases, 31 of the riders killed were not wearing helmets. Twelve riders were wearing a helmet. It was not reported whether the remaining four riders were wearing helmets.

• Sixty-five percent of the fatalities involved riders over the age of 46; 15 percent were under 30.

• Six passengers have died in six motorcycle crashes. Four of those crashes also killed the driver.

• In 19 of the crashes, riders were negotiating a curve when they lost control and crashed. Speed also is cited as a contributing factor in 11 of the accidents.

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

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