It's our annual reminder to keep the rubber side down.

It's May, which means that even the frozen north is thawing. I saw more motorcycles on the road today than I've seen all year. It's that time once again: Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.

We've all seen the stats before. Per mile traveled, motorcycle riders are 27 times to die in a crash than car drivers. We're more vulnerable, out there in the open, than drivers encased in a metal cage with seat belts and 20 airbags. We choose to ride anyway. We accept the risks and try not to dwell on them, so let's not any more than we already have.

The Department of Transportation is taking a four-pronged approach toward safety awareness in 2020. The first one is actually intended for drivers, educating them on how to be more aware of motorcycles on the road around them. It covers topics such as how easily a motorcycle can hide in a car's blind spot, the fact that motorcycles often don't use their brakes to slow down, and that the smaller size of a motorcycle makes it more difficult to judge its distance from you.

Rider safety is another focus, with an emphasis on wearing a helmet whether your state law tells you to or not. This video from the Virginia DMV emphasizes that point. Consider your general riding gear as well, including a jacket, gloves, pants, and boots. (You inspected your gear over the winter, right?) Getting some training is also a great way to stay safe, whether it's on the street, on the track, or in the dirt.

Crashes with another vehicle account for half of all motorcycle fatalities in the US, so sharing the road is incredibly important. Yes, they need to watch out for us, but we need to watch out for them, too, and not ride so fast or aggressively that they can't keep us safe. We all need to play nice together.

Then there's the matter of alcohol. I like a tasty adult beverage as much as the next guy, but it's vital to wait until the end of the ride to imbibe. We've been over this again and again, but people are still drinking and riding. Not only is this incredibly dangerous, but it also makes you look dumb.

Finally, here's my own two cents worth of advice. Take it easy on your first few rides of the year. Unless you're lucky enough to ride year-round, our skills are rusty from being off the bike for months. It's not like you're going to confuse the throttle and the brake, but the instincts and muscle memory are no longer natural, and it'll take time for them to come back. It won't take long for you to get your "bike legs" again. Just take it easy until you do. 


Sources: US Department of Transportation, Virginia DMV