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Other Opinion: Helmets save lives of motorcyclists

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Nineteen states and the District of Columbia require all motorcyclists and passengers to wear helmets when riding.

Minnesota is not one of those states. When riding a motorcycle it is your choice to wear or not wear a helmet. The exception is for everyone under the age of 18, or operators of any age with a learner's permit: They are required by state law to wear a helmet.

In light of a recent spate of motorcycle fatalities in the area, we urge anyone who gets on a motorcycle to think seriously about wearing a helmet. Helmets save lives, and the statistics prove it.

Again, it's your choice under Minnesota law. But let's look at some numbers from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety:

• In 2018, there were 13 percent fewer crashes involving a motorcycle than the previous year, but 9 percent more fatalities, from 53 deaths the year before to 58 deaths in 2018.

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• In 2018, only 15 of the 58 (28 percent) riders who were killed were wearing a helmet, while 69 percent of the riders killed were not wearing a helmet.

• In 2018, 59 percent of fatalities were older than 40.

It's a safe bet that every single one of those 58 motorcycle deaths last year left behind grieving loved ones — spouses, children, extended families, neighbors, work colleagues. They also likely saddled those survivors with extensive medical and funeral bills.

Is that really worth feeling the wind blow through your hair?

To many riders, it is worth the gamble. Motorcycle riders are a part of a community and culture. They share comradeship with fellow riders as they travel scenic roads, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the environment.

It's all about freedom, including the freedom not to wear a helmet.

We get that. But we also know that freedom doesn't mean much when your head is crushed, leading to death or a lifelong traumatic brain injury.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that laws requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets are "the single most effective way for states to save lives and money."

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Minnesota hasn't taken that step yet, and is probably not likely to in the near future.

That's why we consider it important that motorcycle riders take it upon themselves to keep the activity they love as safe as possible.

Please, if not for yourself, then for those who care about you, wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle.

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