HARRISBURG — Gov. Edward G. Rendell has proclaimed May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, reminding operators of all vehicles to share the road as more motorcyclists will be heading out on Pennsylvania's roads this year.

"With the increase of motorcycle use across the commonwealth, we all need to watch out for and respect one another on our highways," said state Transportation Department Secretary Allen D. Biehler. "Drivers need to be especially alert for motorcycles, which sometimes are not as easily seen as larger vehicles."

More than 4,100 crashes involving motorcycles occurred on Pennsylvania roads in 2007, resulting in 225 motorcycle-related fatalities. The number of registered motorcycles and licensed motorcyclists increased in 2007 by nearly 22,000 and nearly 13,000, respectively.

By virtue of their size and differences in maneuverability, motorcycles present unique challenges for their operators and other drivers. To improve safety, PennDOT officials recommend that motorists always check their mirrors and blind spots at intersections and before making lane changes since motorcycles are smaller and harder to pick out among larger vehicles.

Larger-vehicle operators also are reminded to allow adequate following distance and space for a motorcycle to maneuver. Road and weather conditions that may be minor annoyances to the average driver can pose a major hazard for motorcyclists.

Motorcyclists can protect themselves on the road by wearing proper gear, including DOT-approved protective headgear, face or eye protection and brightly colored, protective clothing covering all exposed areas of the body from head to toe.

By practicing proper riding techniques and learning how to handle motorcycles in all types of road and weather conditions, motorcyclists can further decrease their chances of being involved in a crash.

Pennsylvania law mandates the use of eye protection for all motorcyclists unless they are operating a motorized pedalcycle or a three-wheeled motorcycle equipped with an enclosed cab. The law also mandates the use of protective headgear, unless the motorcyclist is 21 or older and has been licensed to operate a motorcycle for not less than two full calendar years, or has successfully completed a motorcycle safety course approved by PennDOT or the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

PennDOT's Motorcycle Safety Program courses are offered March through October at 69 sites across the commonwealth and are free to Pennsylvania residents. To enroll, individuals must have either a Class M (motorcycle) learner's permit or license. Class M permit holders who successfully complete the program will be issued a Class M (motorcycle) license.

Visit www.pamsp.com for information on the Motorcycle Safety Program and to enroll in a course.

Additional information about motorcycle safety as well as general information on licensing and registration is available at www.dmv.state.pa.us.

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