- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 1, 2008

Spring is when motorcyclists from the northern half of the country dust off their boots and get on their motorcycles for the first ride of the year. Riders from the South take road trips to escape the heat. That is why state and federal agencies recognize each May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. This year Congress will weigh in as well.

As co-chairs of the Congressional Motorcycle Caucus and avid motorcyclists, we have introduced a resolution that supports the goals of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. The bipartisan H. Res. 339 is working its way through committee and the full House and has 18 additional co-sponsors. We hope more members will sign on.

Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month encourages riders to always wear helmets and other protective gear, never drink and ride, be properly licensed, and get training — important messages for motorcyclists whether they ride year round or are just getting their motorcycles out of winter storage for the spring and summer seasons.

Another critical safety component of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, also highlighted by H. Res. 339, is the need for other road users to be aware of motorcycles. In 2006, 55 percent of all fatalities in motorcycle crashes involved another vehicle in addition to the motorcycle. In many of these crashes, the drivers of the other vehicle reported that they “never saw the motorcycle.”

Congress, state and federal agencies, and the motorcycling public must take steps to ensure that drivers of cars, SUVs, and trucks are aware of motorcyclists on the road. Riders can do their part by having their headlight on (even during daylight hours), wearing bright and conspicuous helmets and safety gear and riding responsibly. In addition, all road users can increase safety by being cautious and always “taking a second look” before pulling out or turning.

Motorcycles are fun, reduce congestion, have minimal impact on infrastructure, and are fuel efficient, making them more attractive than ever to many motorists. More than 23 million people will operate a motorcycle this year and simply knowing that should spur all riders and drivers to be more aware.

On May 1, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, members of Congress, and safety advocates will gather to mark the beginning of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.

You can help by encouraging your U.S. representative to co-sponsor H. Res. 339 and attend this event. We want to make this the safest year ever for motorcyclists. More important, if you’re on a motorcycle, ride it responsibly. If you’re driving a vehicle, remember to watch out for motorcycle riders. You just might save a life.

Michael Burgess, a Texas Republican, and Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, are members of the U.S. House of Representatives.