Motorcycle ridership is on the rise around the country, including in Arizona, and AAA says the increase can be attributed to higher gas prices in recent years.

In Arizona, the number of registered motorcycles increased nearly 12 percent between 2007 and 2010, according to the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division.

While there may be more bikes on the road, the number of crashes involving motorcycles across the state actually fell by more than 23 percent over the same time frame. Still, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcyclists are about 39 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a traffic crash per vehicle mile traveled.

That sobering fact, coupled with recent fatalities involving motorcycles in Arizona, has prompted law enforcement and motorcycle organizations around the country to join the NHTSA in proclaiming May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. The nationwide initiative urges all drivers to “share the road” and to be extra alert to help keep motorcyclists safe.

“While AAA is pleased to see a decline in Arizona motorcycle crashes in recent years, the boom our state is experiencing in ridership, coupled with recent tragedies on our roadways, underscores the need for awareness,” said Linda Gorman, director of communications and public affairs for AAA Arizona.

Just this month a man was killed while driving a motorcycle in Mesa after the driver of a car failed to yield the right of way and turned into his path, causing both vehicles to collide.

And in April a staff sergeant at Luke Air Force Base was killed when his motorcycle collided with a Jeep on the Loop 303.

In honor of the “share the road” initiative, AAA has put together a list of safety tips for both drivers and riders.

Drivers are encouraged to avoid distractions, be alert to motorcycles that may become hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot, communicate by signaling before changing lanes, and give motorcycles plenty of space.

Riders are asked to maintain proper training, follow all traffic laws, and wear visible protective gear like bright-colored clothing and a helmet that meets safety standards.

For more information on the motorcycle safety campaign, visit the NHTSA’s website at www.nhtsa.gov/Safety/Motorcycles.

• Michael Mashburn is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. He is a junior at Arizona State University.

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