Secretary of State revs up biker safety awareness

Photo by James Mitchell
Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson (right) kick-started Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month with a ride to Biker Bob’s, where general manager Trey Hahn (second from left) joined her in promoting safe riding

Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR — Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson kick-started Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month with some sobering facts and the roar of the Harley-Davidson Sportster she rode to Biker Bob’s Harley-Davidson Thursday.

“I’ve been riding since age 12,” Johnson said after she and a group of motorcyclists wheeled their way to the Telegraph Road dealership. “When it comes to riding, Michigan is made for motorcycles.”

In spite of the state’s struggling economy and slightly shrinking population, the number of motorcyclists — with license endorsements — has risen in recent years to more than 561,000. As Johnson herself demonstrated the sport is no longer just a boys’ club: More than 65,000 of those endorsed riders are women.

Safety, however, was foremost in Johnson’s mind as she addressed the staff and cycle enthusiasts. An estimated 13 percent of motorcycles on the road are not operated by endorsed drivers, who qualified with the Secretary of State as having fulfilled safety education requirements.

Those non-endorsed riders, Johnson said, account for more than half — 58 percent — of fatal crashes involving motorcycles.

“It’s always a good idea to sharpen your skills,” Johnson said as she explained courses offered by the state. Since 2001 more than 120,000 students have participated in the Michigan Motorcycle Safety Program, and courses are available either through the Secretary of State’s office or dealerships such as Biker Bob’s, where safety gear such as reflective clothing is available.

In recognition of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, Johnson and other ’cycle enthusiasts rode from the Penrickton Center for Blind Children on Eureka Road to Biker Bob’s for a press conference.