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Spate of fatal motorcycle crashes pushes North Dakota past 2021 total, and it's only June

Helmets are an important part of motorcycle safety, but so are other forms of protective gear, including gloves, over-the-ankle protection for the feet, and eye protection, said Lonnie Bertsch of ABATE of North Dakota, a nonprofit group that provides motorcyclist safety training.

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Troopers with the North Dakota Highway Patrol examine the scene of a fatal motorcycle crash along Interstate 94 on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, near West Fargo.
Matt Henson/WDAY
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FARGO — In recent days, three fatal motorcycle crashes in the Fargo area increased the total number of such crashes statewide to at least nine — eclipsing the total for all of 2021, which was eight.

Recent deadly motorcycle crashes in the Fargo area include one that occurred Tuesday, June 29, on Interstate 94 outside of West Fargo ; another that occurred on South University Drive in Fargo on June 26 and one that happened on June 24 on Interstate 29 .

Fatal motorcycle crash numbers in North Dakota have risen and fallen over the past ten years, with the fewest number — 8 — reached in 2015 and 2021 and the highest number — 17 — reached in 2020.

According to state figures, a motorcycle crash occurred every two days in North Dakota in 2019, a year that saw a total of 176 motorcycle crashes, 11 of them fatal.

That year, 64% of motorcycle fatalities involved drivers who were not wearing a helmet.

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The eight motorcycle fatalities in 2015 and 2021 were the fewest in North Dakota in "a long, long time," while the 17 motorcycle deaths in 2020 was not the highest the state has experienced, according to Lonnie Bertsch, executive director of ABATE of North Dakota, a nonprofit group that provides motorcycle rider safety training across the state.

"We try to teach anywhere from 1,400 to 2,000 people a summer how to ride motorcycles safely," Bertsch said.

Bertsch added that he expects to see an increase in the number of motorcycles on the road this year because high gasoline prices are prompting some people to look for maximum mileage from their vehicles.

Motorcycle safety training for adults is not a requirement for operating a motorcycle in North Dakota, but it can provide people with an extra margin of safety, according to Bertsch.

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He said helmets are an important part of motorcycle safety, but so are other forms of protective gear, including gloves, over-the-ankle protection for the feet, and eye protection.

Bertsch said one bit of riding advice that always bears repeating is that motorcycle riders should assume they are invisible to other drivers and they should operate their motorcycles with corresponding caution.

May was Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month when transportation officials reminded drivers to watch for motorcycles, smaller vehicles that can be harder to see, at the typical start of riding season.

More information about ABATE can be found at www.abatend.com , and registration for safety training can be found at www.ndmsp.com .

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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