Department of Public Safety officers are asking motorcyclists to renew their commitment to safety this month.

May is Motorcycle Safety Month, and while “Wild Hogs” is playing in theaters, DPS officials are asking motorcyclists to think safety first. DPS Motorcycle Safety Unit coordinator Clifton Burdette said the movie accurately portrays real-life events.

“There is a trend in motorcycle riding nationwide — unprepared riders hitting the roads in increasing numbers. Returning riders are getting back on their motorcycles without brushing up on their skills. Their skills are a little rusty, but they think they can ride now with no problems.”

Burdette encourages all returning riders to take an operator training course so riders can “brush up on their skills and increase safety on the road.”

“We are asking that not just this month, but every day, motorcycle riders use caution and practice safe driving practices,” said DPS Sgt. Steve Tuggle of the Brownwood office.

DPS reports show that in 2005, 360 people in Texas died in motorcycle crashes, with 59.3 percent being attributed to not wearing a helmet.

Not all motorcycles riders in Texas are required to wear helmets, Tuggle said.

“Riders under 21 years of age must wear a helmet. Anyone 21 or older must also take a DPS motorcycle safety course or be covered by a $10,000 health insurance plan.”

A motorcycle safety course is available locally, Tuggle said. Information can be reached on the Texas DPS Web site.

Officers will be paying special attention to riders during May, Tuggle said.

“The number of riders is going up each year. The number of fatalities go up each year. We really focus on helmets this time of the year. If a rider does not have a sticker on their (license) plate showing they have taken the safety course, they will be subject to being pulled over.”

If caught, riders will be subject to a Class C misdemeanor.

For more information of Motorcycle Awareness Month, go to www.txdps.state.tx.us.