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Brush up on motorcycle skills for riding season

Spring is here, and motorcycle-riding weather along with it. Taking to the open road on a motorcycle is hard to beat, especially in scenic Southern Oregon, but biking carries risks. Just this month, three people have lost their lives on motorcycles.

On May 19, two people on a motorcycle died in a head-on collision with a car; the driver is charged with manslaughter, accused of driving under the influence of “a controlled substance and/or cannabis.”

On May 14, a Canadian man riding with a group of motorcyclists was killed when a deer ran into the group and his motorcycle left the road and struck a tree.

None of the riders were at fault, and it may well be that nothing they could have done would have prevented their deaths. But there are steps every rider can take to increase the odds of returning from the next ride in one piece.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission, motorcycle fatalities are on the increase: 14 percent of all deaths on U.S. roads in 2016 — 5,286 — were people on motorcycles, up 5 percent from 2015 and more than double the number 20 years before.

Another interesting statistic: In 1975, 80 percent of motorcycle fatalities involved riders 29 and younger; now, 35 percent involve riders 50 and older, the largest share of fatalities.

What can help bring those numbers down? Training.

Motorcycle safety experts say people who rode motorcycles in their younger years and then stopped to raise families are getting back on bikes, but their skills often aren’t what they were 30 years ago. Reaction time has slowed, balance has changed, strength isn’t what it once was, and today’s bikes are bigger, heavier and more powerful. That can be a deadly combination.

The Oregon Department of Transportation, in partnership with Oregon State University, offers a variety of motorcycle courses, from instruction for beginners through intermediate refresher training for experienced riders, and advanced training for already skilled riders who want to get even better.

The web page at www.team-oregon.org outlines the courses — fees range from $99 to $199 — and when they are scheduled. The courses include practice riding, and motorcycles are provided for most classes. Riders can sign up online, and e-Rider course options are available to reduce the time spent on classroom study.

Classes are held in Medford. A half-day Rider Skills Practice course for licensed riders will be offered July 28. Intermediate courses will be offered in August and October, and an Advanced Rider Training in September.

Even a licensed, experienced rider can benefit from some instruction. What you learn could make the difference between being a satisfied rider and being a statistic.

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