Mansfield — May is “Motorcycle Safety Awareness” Month. This month-long safety message is used to urge motorcyclist to wear proper safety gear and also to remind motorists to be cautious when sharing the road with motorcycles.

 To bring attention to Motorcycle Safety Awareness, Richland Public Health and the Richland County Safe Communities Coalition have joined with Boomer’s Powersports in Mansfield in sponsoring a ride on Saturday, May 3.

Bikers will gather at Boomer’s Powersports, 539 Park Avenue East, Mansfield, for a “Blessing of the Bikes” at 10 a.m. followed by a road ride.

The bike blessing is by the Mansfield Chapter of “Road Riders for Jesus.” Eric Holmes, owner of Boomer’s Powersports, will have a hot dog cookout for all participants following the ride. Holmes is also asking anyone who is riding, or anyone who just wants to visit the event, to bring a non-perishable food donation to help fill the Friendly House Van on location.

The Richland County Safe Communities Coalition will have a display during the event about Motorcycle Safety Awareness with promotional items such as bumper stickers and yard signs. In case of rain, the event will be moved to the following weekend, May 10.

“We had 163 motorcycle fatalities in Ohio last year,” said Reed Richmond, Health Educator at the Mansfield/Ontario/Richland County Health Department and a Safe Communities Coalition organizer. “The rise in motorcycle fatalities is partially due to higher gas prices resulting in many former cyclists returning to their bikes. The highest fatality rate for riders was the age group of 51-55 years old.”

Richmond said that new riders and returning riders should be motorcycle certified and trained and wear the proper safety equipment. But he cautions that the motoring public also has a responsibility in sharing the road safely with motorcycles.

“The majority of fatal motorcycle crashes are the result of risky behavior by the rider,” Richmond said, noting that in 67 percent of those fatalities the operator was not wearing a helmet. “But in one half of the 3,824 injury crashes involving a car and a motorcycle it was the non-motorcycle driver at error in the crash,” Richmond reports.

The Richland County Safe Communities Coalition says drivers need to remember a few tips as the weather gets warmer and more motorcyclists take to the road:

1) Look for motorcycles – because they are smaller they can be hidden in a car’s blind spot.

2) Because of its size, it is hard to judge how far away a motorcycle is. Be extra cautious when making turns at intersections.

3) Never “share” a lane with a motorcycle.

4) Never tailgate a motorcycle. Allow more room between you and the motorcycle ahead.