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Motorcycle deaths soar to 50; highest in six years

Fifty motorcyclists have died in Wisconsin this year, including three this month.

The state Department of Transportation said the number of biker deaths from January-June was the highest in six years, and the second-highest in the last 15 years.

They're also up 67 percent from 2008, at a time when auto and truck deaths are at their lowest in decades.

The DOT's Dennis Hughes says his agency cannot pinpoint exact reasons for the big spike in motorcycle deaths. If they could, he said officials would do better in preventing them.

Experts say there are more bikers on the road including baby boomers and those stung by last year's record-high gas prices.

But Tom Lane of the ABATE Wisconsin advocacy group says about one-third of the state's riders don't have the required motorcycle endorsement on their driver's licenses.

That means lots of bikers are not properly trained and they're riding poorly and illegally.

Also, experts say inattentive car drivers are seeing bikers less often especially those distracted by cell phones and GPS units.

Alcohol was a factor in half of Wisconsin's recent motorcycle deaths. And 80 percent of bikers killed in the state last year were not wearing helmets.