Minnesota roads increasingly deadly in 2015

In 2015, motorcycle deaths have more than doubled through this time last year.

In 2015, motorcycle deaths have more than doubled through this time last year.

On Saturday, Gregory Metzger was riding his motorcycle along County Road 8 near Pine Center. As the Oakdale man approached a curve, his bike left the road and the 59-year-old was tossed from his motorcycle into a roadside marker.

First responders attempted to resuscitate him. But helmet or no, Metzger was killed.

A day earlier Jeremy Langley of Sioux Falls, S.D., was cruising on the Minnesota side of the border in Pipestone County when he lost control of his bike and died.

It was a particularly lethal weekend during a particularly lethal year on Minnesota roads. Last weekend alone, six people were killed in traffic accidents around the state bringing the total number of deaths this year to 179 – a 31 percent increase from this time last year.

“It is concerning,” says Lt. Tiffani Nielson, public information officer with the Minnesota State Patrol. “It's concerning because we're about 30 people more than this time last year.”

Make that 42.

The first six months of 2015 have been especially deadly for motorcyclists, with more than double the death toll from this time last year. In 2014, a total of 46 motorcyclists died on the road, compared with 36 through the first half of 2015.

Nielson pegs part of the motorcycle death surge on an early spring, an uptick in riders and inexperienced bikers struggling with bigger, faster bikes between their legs.

“Frankly, there are just probably some riders out there that aren't capable of riding safely and handling the bikes due to the size and the power that they have,” she says.

The somber numbers released by the Department of Public Safety come heading into Fourth of July weekend, traditionally the third deadliest of the year following Thanksgiving and Christmas. Through July, the state patrol is upping drunk driving enforcement and soon plans a heightened crackdown on speedsters (um, like this trooper).

While 2015 is off to a grim start, Minnesota traffic fatalities have generally declined since 2003. Between 2009 and 2013, the state averaged 396 deaths per year, down from 517 over the previous five years.

Send news tips to Michael Rietmulder.