Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month was officially launched with a news conference on Thursday, May 1, 2008 on the grounds of the nation's Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Speaking at the event were the co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Motorcycle Caucus, Rep. Michael C. Burgess M.D. (R-Texas) and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), along with Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters, Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) President Tim Buche and American Motorcyclist Association President and CEO Rob Dingman. The gathering of national leaders was organized by the MIC and called attention to the annual spring surge of motorcyclists on America's highways and encouraged responsible riding and driving by all roadway users.
"As a doctor, I've been in plenty of emergency rooms and trauma centers," said Rep. Burgess, who is a motorcyclist himself. "Take it from me, you don't want to be involved in a crash of any kind, especially one involving a motorcycle. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. For riders, that means ride responsibly. For everyone else on the road, stay alert and don't let dangerous distractions divert your attention from the road."
Burgess added that he has introduced a bipartisan bill to fix a loophole in the HIPAA law that allows insurers to deny payment for injuries sustained while engaged in recreational activities like motorcycling.
"There are many other reasons why motorcycles are so popular, but one explanation is simple economics: the rising cost of gas," said Rep. Giffords. "Motorcycles offer a more fuel efficient and cheaper way of getting around. I am proud that, as a motorcyclist, I am leaving a smaller footprint on our earth by just riding my bike."
Burgess and Giffords have sponsored a House resolution (H. R. 339) that highlights Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.
Peters said, "As a biker myself, I know motorcycle safety begins and ends with riders taking personal responsibility. That means proper training, proper gear, and a DOT-certified helmet every time you ride."
Speaking on behalf of the AMA's 290,000 members, Dingman said, "I strongly encourage motorcyclists everywhere to re-familiarize themselves with the basics of safe and responsible riding to get the most out of every trip and arrive at their destinations safely. But it is not only motorcyclists who need to hear our safety message today. Far too many motorcycle crashes are caused by inattentive car drivers who pull into oncoming traffic, often turning into the right-of-way of approaching motorcyclists. With the popularity of motorcycling at an all-time high in America, these crashes often injure or take the life of a friend, family member or co-worker. We urge everyone, no matter what you ride or drive, to focus on the task at hand and be aware of traffic around you, in particular motorcyclists."
Dingman also encouraged Peters and the DOT to urge state highway safety offices to do more with federal 402 funds to educate motorists regarding the importance of watching out for motorcycles.
Prior to making their remarks, the leaders shrugged off raindrops from a passing shower to view a motorcycle riding simulator, several late model bikes and the latest protective riding gear. Flanking the assembled group was a detachment of the U.S. Capitol Police Department's motorcycle corps.