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Brush up riding skills

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.

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.

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, including intermediate classes and refresher training for experienced riders.

The web page at www.team-oregon.org outlines the courses — fees range from $99 to $199 — and when they are scheduled.

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.