HUDSONVILLE, Mich. – Secretary Ruth Johnson, fellow motorcycle riders from across Michigan and safety advocates kicked off May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month today, urging riders to wear the proper gear, take advantage of safety courses and to share the road.
“Michigan has more than half a million motorcyclists and as we head into the warm weather, we need to do everything we can to be safe – wear the proper gear, stay aware and take rider education classes,” said Johnson, who rode a HarleyDavidson Sportster to the kickoff, held at the Grand Rapids Harley-Davidson Dealership in Hudsonville. “Car and truck drivers, please be cautious. With gas at nearly $4 per gallon and expected to go higher this summer, we’ll probably see more motorcyclists on the road.”
Johnson said new efforts to improve motorcycle safety include an upcoming public service announcement, which is a joint project of the Michigan Secretary of State, Michigan Department of Transportation and the Michigan State Police. Other advances include expansion of the advanced rider motorcycle training course into the Grand Rapids area and a new one-day returning rider or refresher training course.
Johnson was joined by Office of Highway Safety Planning Director Michael L. Prince ,who said: “Motorcyclists are obviously much more vulnerable to injury than passenger vehicle occupants. For that reason, we urge riders to take the state’s basic and advanced rider safety courses, to always ride defensively, and to wear protective gear that makes them visible to other motorists. The best person to look out for a motorcycle rider’s safety is the rider.”
Steven Ender, the Grand Rapids Community College president, said he just took a course to refresh his skills after returning to riding. “I am proud of the fact that in the past 10 years, GRCC has trained more than 10,000 motorcyclists to be safe riders through our Motorcycle Safety Training Program,” Ender said. “Motorcycle riding can be so much fun, but safety always has to come first. The first thing I did when I decided to start riding again after being away from it for a few years was to take the refresher course – and I’m glad I did.”
Cathy Hall, 46, of Norton Shores and a motorcycle education coach since 2008, said more women are taking up motorcycling. She earned her motorcycle endorsement in 1994 and has logged more than 250,000 miles.
Hall’s advice to riders? “Education, continual education, is critical. Everyone out there on a motorcycle, you have one shot to get it right. You have to know how to handle whatever situation arises. Education is the best way to handle the risks out there.”
Motorcycling continues to grow in popularity across the state. Since 2007, the number of endorsed riders has jumped almost 50,000, to 553,000. More than 60,000 of those riders are women.
Johnson, who obtained her first motorcycle endorsement as a teenager, is believed to be one of the first women in Oakland County to get endorsed. A motorcycle endorsement on a driver’s license is required by law to ride on public roads.
Riders must successfully complete a knowledge test and a safety course or a skills test with a third-party tester before an endorsement is issued. A safety course is required for 16- and 17-year-olds as well as for adults who fail the skills test twice.
The Michigan Secretary of State’s office administers Michigan ’s Motorcycle Safety Program, overseeing a network of 30 public and private training programs. Courses include basic, advanced and refresher courses for Michigan motorcyclists. More than 120,000 students have attended training since 2001.