May is promoted by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration as “Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month,” and it’s really needed around here.

I heard an alarming statistic on the news: while 20 Marines from Camp Lejeune died in Iraq in 2008, a staggering 25 were killed in motorcycle accidents. And, that was no odd year — between 2006 and 2008, Camp Lejeune Marines were involved in 208 motorcycle crashes that led to 65 deaths. Nationwide, more Marines died on motorcycles than in combat.

I don’t say this to pick on either Marines or motorcycles, but it appears clear that gung-ho young men fueled by testosterone and motorcycles fueled by hi-test gas are not a healthful combination.

Call me a fuddy-duddy, but I have never wanted to ride a motorcycle: going highway speeds with nothing between me and the road but my shirt has never seemed like a good idea to me, not to mention all the cars and trucks that are bound to come out on top in any potential collisions.

One of my brothers and his wife love to get together with friends and ride their Harley-Davidsons all over the country. I have friends who love to feel the breeze when they ride. Good for them: I’ll stick with my stodgy sedan.

The Harley riders I see on the road tend to be middle-aged or older, though not as old as the folks I see on cushy Honda Gold Wings, who might as well drive a car. Most of those bikers ride with both courtesy and care, and they rarely speed. The motorcyclists I see who zoom into the rearview mirror, dart in and out of traffic, and generally play the fool are almost inevitably bent over a brightly colored crotch rocket made by Suzuki, Kawasaki, Ducati, or some other brand that caters to hormone-driven risk-takers. Those bikers are also inevitably young and male.

Of course, motorcycle accidents are not always the fault of the biker: drivers of larger vehicles would do well to watch their mirrors more carefully, and allow motorcyclists their share of the road.

I don’t know if the two-wheeled speed demons and impatient tailgaters who need it most will pay any attention to Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, but after looking at the statistics, I’ll be more conscious of giving the bikes a wider berth.

[Photo from marinecorpstimes.com]

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