Secretary of State Ruth Johnson today was joined by motorcycle safety advocates and enthusiasts at the Vehicle City Harley-Davidson dealership in Flint to promote May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.
“Riding a motorcycle is a thrilling experience,” said Johnson, who first learned to ride a motorcycle as a young teen. “But it’s important to understand the risks and how to safely manage them. Take a motorcycle safety course, get your endorsement, wear the proper gear, and know what your skill level and limits are before you ride.”
Johnson joined with other motorcyclists to kick off the news conference by riding to Vehicle City from the Grand Blanc Township Police Department parking lot. Johnson rode a Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 supplied by the dealership.
In addition to Johnson, speakers at the news conference were Jay Holly from Foundation 14, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping combat veterans regain their sense of wholeness and freedom through motorcycling, and Mike Emory, founder of the Victory Gym and Veterans Health Club in Brownstown, who has worked with Foundation 14.
There are approximately 489,000 Michigan residents with a motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s license. The endorsement is required to ride legally on public roads and motorcyclists who ride without the endorsement risk having their bike ticketed and towed.
The Michigan Department of State Michigan Rider Education Program (Mi-REP) oversees the 33 public and private providers statewide that offer motorcycle rider safety training classes. Classes are available for novice and experienced motorcyclists and provide an excellent foundation for developing and improving the necessary skills to ride safely. Taking a motorcycle safety class, getting the endorsement and wearing the proper gear when riding are three important steps motorcyclists can take to better protect themselves on the road.
The Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP), in partnership with the Michigan Department of State, administers the Shadow Rider program, an ongoing initiative to inform unendorsed motorcyclists of the risks of riding unendorsed and encourage them to get trained and endorsed.
According to OHSP, unendorsed riders are involved in over 50 percent of all motorcycle crashes in Michigan, but under the Shadow Rider program, more than 12,000 riders have obtained their endorsement.
Johnson added that motorists also have a responsibility to share the road safely with motorcyclists. Motorists are reminded to:
- Be extra cautious on weekends, when more motorcyclists take to the road.
- Provide motorcyclists adequate room to maneuver. Follow at least three to four seconds behind them.
- Look carefully for motorcycles, especially at intersections or when making a left turn, two of the most common locations for vehicle-motorcycle crashes.
- Allow extra maneuvering room in areas with potholes, pavement transitions and railroad crossings. Motorcyclists may need to slow down, stop or adjust their lane position.
- Never try to share a lane with a motorcycle. Motorcycles have the same right to lanes as any other vehicle.
- If a motorcycle is nearby, check your mirrors carefully before changing lanes. Motorcycles may be in your blind spots or difficult to see because of their smaller size.
The news conference also highlighted veterans’ causes as a nod to the upcoming Memorial Day holiday and to the many veterans who ride. Johnson reminded veterans that the Department of State offers programs such as the veterans’ designation on driver’s licenses, veteran and military service license plates, and “Operation: Our Troops Count,” for those casting ballots overseas.
Holly and Maria Caruso, the co-founders of Foundation 14, spoke to the importance of helping combat veterans regain a sense of normalcy. Foundation 14 supplies motorcycles to combat veterans, and when needed, will modify bikes so that veterans with prosthetics or other physical challenges can still ride.
“Foundation 14 is committed to putting combat veterans on motorcycles; a healthy alternative – a freedom they’ve earned,” Holly said.
To find a motorcycle safety training class near you, visit www.michigan.gov/motorcycling.