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Motorcycle safety

Eight delivery trucks will carry a motorcycle awareness message for 10 weeks while traveling across Nebraska. 

Eight trucks will traverse the state over the next 10 weeks to promote motorcycle safety as part of a Nebraska Highway Safety Council campaign that kicked off Wednesday.

Signs on the delivery trucks' panels warn motorists to "watch for motorcycles everywhere," by checking mirrors and looking both ways when at intersections and changing lanes.

The state Department of Transportation, law enforcement and motorcycle safety groups created the campaign after a rash of fatal accidents involving motorcyclists this year, particularly in the last six weeks.

In 2017, there have been 22 motorcyclist fatalities, compared to 14 at this time last year.

From June 10 to July 20, motorcyclist fatalities represented one-third of the state's 33 traffic deaths, including a wreck on July 2 near Lake McConaughy that killed four motorcyclists when a vehicle crossed the center line.

Nebraska Highway Safety Administrator Fred Zwonechek said similar campaigns funded by federal motorcycle safety grants have been used in the past to drive awareness, including ones in 2009 and 2012.

Motorcycle-related fatalities declined in those years following the campaigns, although it's hard to attribute declining numbers to the campaigns, Zwonechek said.

"You want to reach drivers, and this is a way to do it," he said. 

Gary Neeman, assistant state coordinator of American Bikers Aiming Towards Education of Nebraska, said campaigns like this are about spreading awareness to save lives.

"We'd like zero fatalities from now until the end of the year ... so we'll do anything that will affect driver behavior," Neeman said. "One fatality is one too many."

In the 17 most-recent fatalities involving motorcyclists in Nebraska, 13 involved traffic violations.

Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner said it's important to double-check for motorcyclists and to yield the right of way.

"I think everyone of us can look back on a time when we changed lanes or pulled out and didn't see a motorcycle," Wagner said. 

The Nebraska Safety Council urged bikers to take part in a 15-hour riding course that teaches basic rules for safe motorcycling.

A one-day refresher course is also available for veteran bikers on Aug. 26 at the Nebraska Safety Council.

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