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Fatal crash underscores safe driving downtown

Following Wednesday's fatal scooter crash at Highway 61 and Hill Street, authorities are asking all motorists to stay alert when driving downtown.

"We don't see a high number of fatal crashes in Red Wing, but one is too many," Police Chief Roger Pohlman said. "We are a city in mourning."

Michael Szymanski, 49, was driving his 2007 Schwinn moped eastbound on Highway 61 when he collided with a Chevy Malibu driven by Nicholas Sparby, 29, as he was turning left off of Hill Street, according to a Minnesota State Patrol crash report.

Motorcycle and moped riders face a greater risk of injury compared to other motorists because they are more exposed to the elements, Pohlman said.

He added that mopeds like the one Szymanski was driving are growing more popular, especially in the summer months and with rising gas prices.

Minnesota law allows moped use on roadways, except for interstate freeways.

Wednesday's crash adds to the increasing number of motorcycle fatalities in the state compared to last year, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

DPS reported 36 motorcyclist deaths so far this year, almost twice as many at the same time in 2012.

The Motorcycle Safety Center advises moped riders to wear the same protective gear and helmets as motorcyclists to reduce injury.

Szymanski was not wearing a helmet, the crash report states.

When sharing the road with two-wheeled vehicles, Pohlman said drivers should anticipate for motorcycles, always use turn signals and look twice before turning or making lane changes.

"Motorcycles are smaller and can easily be hidden in vehicle blind spots," Pohlman said. "Always take that extra second to look."

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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