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Trooper talks motorcycle safety ahead of summer’s expected increase in crashes

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SALT LAKE CITY – Summer is the time when traffic-related deaths tend to trend upward, and Utah agencies are teaming up to raise awareness about motorcycle safety.

The Utah Highway Patrol and Utah Department of Transportation kicked off Motorcycle Awareness Month by sharing some safety tips.

“I'm a motorcycle enthusiast,” Superintendent Danny Fuhr of the Utah Highway Patrol said. “I love riding the UHP Bike, I love my dirt bike, my road bike, my mountain bike, but that comes at a cost.”

In 2014, 46 people died in motorcycle crashes on Utah roadways, and in 2015 that number was 36. But, according to the Utah Highway Patrol, motorcycle fatalities are still trending up.

“And what's troubling is, when you think about it, motorcycles are 3 percent of all registered vehicles in the state of Utah, only 3 percent,” Fuhr said. “But they make up 18 percent, in some years, 18 percent of the traffic fatalities.”

Experts say a good step is for drivers and motorcyclists to be more aware and share the road.

“So, responsibility for cars, look for motorcyclists on the roadway,” Fuhr said. “Be very careful near intersections. Make sure they're not in your blind spot.”

And, just like seat belts save lives, experts say helmets save lives. Between 2010 and 2014, the majority of motorcyclists who died were not wearing helmets.

“Eighty percent of the crashes that you're involved in are going to result in an injury,” Fuhr said. “So the very, very best way to avoid that injury is to wear a helmet.”

Troopers encourage motorcyclists to take a practice drive in an empty parking lot and test out their brakes before heading out for their first ride of the season.

“A lot of times a rider will get going fast in a straight away and think, 'OK this is feeling really good,' and they'll come to a curve thinking, 'Oh no! Oh no!' I’m going way too fast,'" Fuhr said. "And they brake improperly, and they go off the road, and that's how we get a lot of the injuries.”

Experts also say bikes should get a tune up.

“So if you just jump on your bike and go ride and don't do a proper tune up, you're crazy! It's just a recipe for disaster, so just make sure you have proper oil, proper air pressure, and then most of all, make sure your helmet's clean,” Fuhr said.

Staying within the speed limit also makes the list of most important safety tips.

“Make sure you're driving within your means,” Fuhr said. “Driving the posted speed limit, be careful around curves, looking ahead, looking for debris on the roadway, and making sure your equipment's sound and that way we prevent the needless deaths on Utah roadways.”