Panama City Beach- This weekend's Thunder Beach Rally is settling into new surroundings. Organizers moved the event headquarters to the Bay Point Marriott for safety reasons. Crews are making improvements to Thomas Drive, in front of the usual Thunder Beach home at the Boardwalk Resort. But road work is not the only safety hazard organizers are hoping the visiting bikers will avoid.
"It's best not the drink and drive period. But if you do, park it at 4 or 5 and then have a good time." Thunder Beach has always been about big bikes, big crowds and big parties. That's all well and good. But federal authorities say too many bikers are also taking big risks. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 41% of all motorcycle deaths are alcohol related.
Organizers for this weekend's thunder beach rally trying to reduce the number of drinking bikers on the roadways. "Here at the Marriott it's one of their biggest concerns to monitor alcohol consumption by individuals and to make sure everyone is being careful. If it takes telling someone, "Gee, I think you've had enough, how about a coke or something" that is what they are doing," said Rich Wise, venue manager for Thunder Beach 2010.
Angela Miller agrees, a biker from Michigan, agrees. "Here and at home we see people drink and get on their bikes all the time. It's one of those things poeple can say "I don't feel drunk," but you don't have to feel drunk to be drunk. Think about your family."
Hundreds of others feel the same. Riders, from Georgia, Alabama and Florida met at the state line Thursday afternoon to make a statement for safe choices while on the road. "It's so important for motorcyclists to take personal responsability meaning that they need to make sure that they are riding sober," said Frederick Huff, a biker from Georgia.
They plan to hold each other accountable this weekend while they're here for Thunder Beach. "Being on two wheels out in the open air enjoying this beautiful scenery is enough intoxication, you don't need any kind of illicit drugs in the mix, it's a deadly mix," said Huff.
Florida is one of only a few states to see a reduction in motorcycle fatalities the past two years.