Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson rolled into Farmington Hills this morning with a message for motorcyclists about staying safe on the road.
Johnson, who said she has been riding since age 12, drove a new Harley Davidson Sportster about two miles from the Motor City Harley Davidson warehouse to a press conference held at on Grand River. She introduced a new 90-second public service video that urges cyclists to take training classes, wear proper gear and be careful on the road.
"We have to make sure everyone knows these classes and to get your endorsement is so very important," she said. "We're putting a lot of effort into motorcycle safety awareness and training programs for new and seasoned riders."
That includes a new one-day class to help returning riders get their state-required endorsement and enhance their skills, as well as a new online class locator. Secretary of State office clerks are being trained to steer new riders toward classes when they come in to get their endorsement, Johnson added.
"We're hoping a little nudge will get more riders trained and save lives," she said.
Lt. Mike Shaw of the Michigan State Police pointed out that not having a motorcycle endorsement comes with civil penalties. Police will tow a vehicle when they find the motorcyclist does not have a proper license endorsement, he said.
But that's not the worst possible consequence.
"Through our investigations, nearly half of all motorcycle crashes involve riders that either do not have an endorsement or have not been properly trained," he said. "This could get you killed or kill somebody else."
Long-time motorcyclist George Fischer of Dearborn Heights asked about Michigan's new helmet law, which allows cyclists under certain conditions to ride without one. Fischer, who said that a physical problem with his neck prevents him from wearing a regular helmet, wanted to know if MSP officers would "hassle people" for wearing "skid lids", a light-weight, carbon fiber helmet.
Shaw said riders can go without a helmet so long as they meet the standards of the new law. For those over 21, who carry $20,000 in insurance and have had a license for 2 years or taken a motorcycle safety course, he said, "if you decide that you don't want to wear a helmet, which we don't recommend, then you don't have to wear a helmet."
Today, Mlive.com reported that only 12 of the 100 motorcycle crashes recorded since the law took effect April 12 involved bikers without helmets. Of the three fatal accidents during that time frame, two of the three victims were wearing helmets.
Shaw pointed out that many motorcycle safety classes tell riders to wear a helmet – as Johnson and her escorts did on their 2-mile ride to the dealership.
To learn more about motorcycle safety and to find classes near you, visit mi.gov/sos.