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An Echo Press Editorial: Expect the unexpected on roads

In the spring and summer, when the roads are free of snow and ice, it's easy to get lulled into thinking that nothing bad can happen out there.

Even when visibility is unlimited, don't let down your guard. A crash can happen anytime, anywhere.

Over Memorial Day weekend, six people died in six separate crashes in Minnesota. According to the State Patrol:

A 27-year-old man died when he veered into another lane of traffic in Scott County and sideswiped one vehicle before hitting another vehicle head on.

A 19-year-old female passenger died in a Dakota County crash where speed and distraction is suspected.

A 45-year-old man crashed his ATV in Red Lake and died.

A 21-year-old motorcyclist fleeing police in Mower County died in a crash.

A 69-year-old woman died after driving her motorcycle too fast for the conditions in Anoka County.

A 23-year-old motorcyclist died in a crash in Dakota County.

The fatalities put the state ahead of last year's crash-related deaths. Preliminary numbers from the Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety show 118 people have lost their lives in traffic crashes on Minnesota roads so far in 2018. That compares to 115 at this time last year.

Also over Memorial Day weekend, there were 228 property damage crashes, 37 personal injury crashes and five crashes that resulted in serious injuries.

Drivers are still taking too many risks. Preliminary numbers show law enforcement arrested 374 people for DWI over the holiday weekend, bringing the arrest total for the year to 2,078.

Buckling up and having your passengers properly secured in the vehicle is the first line of defense in a crash. Preliminary numbers show 73 unbelted motorists lost their lives on Minnesota roads in 2017.

Drivers also need to do a better job of seeing motorcyclists. Advice from troopers:

• Watch for motorcycles. Due to their smaller size, speed and distance are more difficult to judge.

• Always look twice before entering a roadway or changing lanes to make sure a motorcycle isn't in your blind spot.

• Give riders room to ride by maintaining a 3-second following distance. Give a motorcycle as much space as another car or truck.

Motorcycle riders can also do their part:

• Wear all the gear, all the time. Brightly-colored protective gear, including a DOT-approved helmet, helps make a rider visible to other drivers and protects them in case of a crash. Riding gloves, a jacket, pants, boots, helmet and eye protection are all that stand between the rider and the pavement in a crash. Making the decision to wear all the gear can save lives.

• Never drink and ride.

• Be prepared for inattentive drivers by staying focused on riding and keeping speed in check.

• Take a training course.

Even if you are not the one getting behind the wheel. You can make a difference by speaking up:

• If you are with a driver who is distracted, speak up, tell them to put the phone down and offer to be their designated texter.

• Refuse to drive or get into a vehicle unless every passenger is buckled up.

• Plan ahead before you go out by designating a sober driver, and if you see a person who has had too much to drink, speak up and find them a safe ride home.

The State Patrol has good advice that should be heeded at all times of the year: Expect the unexpected. You may be a safe driver but you never know what to expect from others on the road.