The Iowa Department of Public Safety is trying to raise awareness after a big jump in motorcycle fatalities. State officials say motorcycle fatalities jumped 70-percent in the last four years — from 30 in 2000 to 51 last year. They say 56-percent of all the crashes last year involved excessive speed and 35-percent of the operators involved tested positive for alcohol or drugs. May’s been designated “Motorcycle Safety Month” by the state. Duane Ripple of La Porte City has been riding since 1976. He agrees there’s a lot of things riders do that pose a danger — like weaving in and out of traffic and pulling wheelies. Even though he’s ridden for almost three decades — Ripple says he doesn’t take riding safely for granted. Ripple says he takes an experienced rider course every year, and says it helps sharpen his skills. Ripple says riders can also do themselves a favor by wearing proper riding attire, such as jeans, or leather chaps and protection for the noggin.Ripple says tough guys now and then that go down then complain when it’s printed in the paper that they weren’t wearing a helmet. He says, “Get real.” Ripple says wearing a helmet won’t save you everytime, but he says it does help increase the odds in your favor. The Department of Public Safety says 90-percent of last year’s motorcycle fatality victims in Iowa were not wearing a helmet. Ripple estimates he and his wife ride up to 15-thousand miles a year with friends in their riding club.
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