Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, motorcyclists ride across the Mighty Mac to promote safety

Secretary Johnson rides motorcycleMAY 19, 2016

Warmer weather means more motorcyclists on the road

ST. IGNACE, Mich. – With the Straits of Mackinac rolling beneath her and a group of fellow riders behind her, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson today rode a Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 across the five-mile asphalt, concrete and steel spans of the Mackinac Bridge to highlight the critical need for motorists and motorcyclists to safely share the road.

Johnson and the other motorcyclists set off from Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry parking lot in Mackinaw City to publicize May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. Johnson’s motorcycle was provided for the event by Zips 45th Parallel Harley-Davidson in Gaylord.

“As the weather turns warmer and the riding season shifts into high gear, more motorcyclists will be out,” said Johnson, who rode her first motorcycle at the age of 12. “I’m here today to remind everyone that whether you drive two, three or four wheels, safety on the road begins with you.”

Joining Johnson for the press event was Robert Sweeney, Mackinaw Bridge Authority Administrator and Paul Desy, general manager for Zips 45th Parallel Harley-Davidson.

Motorcycle safety is an important issue in Michigan. Statistics show that 80 percent of motorcycle crashes result in injury and death. To help avoid such tragedies, motorists are advised to:

  • Watch out at intersections ‒ they are the No. 1 spot for crashes with motorcyclists;
  • Search for approaching traffic carefully when making left turns – a motorcycle’s smaller size makes it easy to miss;
  • Double check blind spots when changing lanes;
  • Keep at least three-four seconds between your vehicle and a motorcyclist;
  • Treat motorcyclists with respect and courtesy – they have the same rights as any other driver and are legally entitled to a full lane.

Motorcyclists have an equally important role in ensuring they are prepared to ride. According to the Michigan State Police, nearly 50 percent of riders involved in a crash did not have a motorcycle endorsement. The smartest steps that motorcyclists can take to avoid trouble are to:

  • Take a motorcycle safety class. Classes are available for all skill levels;
  • If you don’t have it, get the motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license – it is the law
  • Always wear the appropriate safety gear;
  • Choose a motorcycle suited for your size and skill level.

To address the problem of unendorsed riders, the Secretary of State’s Office and the Office of Highway Safety Planning are overseeing a multi-year program called the Shadow Rider Campaign. Launched in 2013, the campaign targets those without a motorcycle endorsement and informs them of the risks of riding without it. Since the program began, the number of unendorsed riders has dropped from 50,000 to 40,000.

The Michigan Motorcycle Safety Training Program offers classes for riders at all experience levels. Classes are provided through public organizations, such as colleges and universities, and private organizations, including select Harley-Davidson dealers. A new online component has been added that allows students to study the basics at home, freeing up classroom and range time for the more demanding aspects of motorcycling.

Johnson added that the motorcycle safety program is seeking RiderCoaches as new classes are opening up and some current instructors are retiring. To apply for a RiderCoach preparation course, candidates must have excellent riding and communication skills and be at least 18 years old. Visit and select Approved Sponsor and RiderCoach Information for complete information about the program.

As of May, Michigan has 489,337 residents with a motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s license and 238,010 registered motorcycles. A motorcycle endorsement is required to drive on public roads. To obtain an endorsement, you must successfully pass a motorcycle safety course OR pass a written and vision test at a Secretary of State office, obtain a motorcycle temporary instruction permit which allows you to practice riding legally on the streets, pass a motorcycle skills test at a third-party testing organization, and present your skills test certificate at a branch office. The motorcycle safety course is required for teens.


For media questions, please call Gisgie Dávila Gendreau or
Fred Woodhams at 517-373-2520.

Customers may call the Department of State Information Center to
speak to a customer-service representative at 888-SOS-MICH (767-6424).