There's something about a Harley-Davidson that even top Bush aides like Chief of Staff Josh Bolten , Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, and others can't resist. "It's just the persona of that sound, that bike, that is so much a part of American culture," says Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, who owns two Harleys. "I try not to show too much bias," she says, "but it's pretty obvious with my [Harley] jacket, my boots, and my helmet." Now celebrating her one-year anniversary in office, Peters is using her passion for Hogs to aggressively push for greater motorcycle safety, especially among baby boomers flocking to Harley-Davidson dealers to relive their glory days. The problem: They are overwhelmingly crash prone. "They think their reflexes are as quick and their skills as good as they were 20 years ago, and they're not," she says.
"I'm probably emblematic of them," Peters confesses. She gave up Hogs to raise a family, then got the itch to ride after her kids left home, buying her dream bike in 2002: a pearl-white, 1,450-cc Fat Boy Softail. Despite lots of practice, she spilled in 2005 and now carries her damaged helmet to motorcycle conventions and dealers to plea for helmet use, safety equipment, and driver's ed. "Take personal responsibility for your safety," she tells boomers. "Don't just go to that dealer and hop on it."
JOE CIARDIELLO FOR USN & WR