Daytona Bike Week kicks off; Officials emphasize safety



DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Thousands of people and bikers from across the world are making their way to Daytona Beach Friday for the 72nd Annual Bike Week.

The 10-day event kicked off at 8 a.m. on Friday.

It's the best-known biker rally in the nation and one of the longest, running through March 17, and more than 500,000 bikers are expected to come through Daytona.

The weather is also looking good for the week, which pleases Canadian Eniko Campbell.

"There's no snow, and that's phenomenal," Campbell said of Florida's sunny skies.

Bars and restaurants in the area host giant parties to go along with the other events, and vendors cash in big with custom parts, artwork, clothing and other bike accessories.

In fact, the local Convention and Visitor's Bureau estimates Bike Week rakes in $250 million every year.

"It allows them to hire the local help here, and I would say it boosts about 5,000 to 10,000 jobs for that 10 days," said local bar owner Eric Ignasiak.

There are also hundreds of vendors, and all of them pay fees to be a part of Bike Week. Last year, city officials said Daytona Beach made $250,000 off permits, application fees, parking and sponsors.

Bike Week includes events that span far beyond Daytona and into DeLand.

Orlando was also expected to experience an increase in motorcycle traffic, which comes with an increase in motorcycle accidents each year.

It's an issue the Florida Department of Transportation and the Florida Highway Patrol highlighted Friday.

The two groups presented bikers who have seen friends pay high prices.

"He has probably more metal in him right now than bone, and only because the driver just didn't look," said Lin Parlamin, whose friend was in a serious motorcycle accident.

Florida Highway Patrol troopers said they are concerned about safety over the course of the week.

"Unfortunately, when drivers look down the road, they scan for the largest object on the road, and a lot of times they look right past the motorcycle," said Sgt. Kim Montes of the Florida Highway Patrol.

Last year, FHP investigated more than 40 accidents during bike week. Five of those involved fatalities.

"The big thing is [to] be safe, enjoy our weather and come back," said Montes.

Dan Fisch represents American Bikers Aimed Toward Education. He said bikers need a lesson, as well -- learn not to drink and bike.

"Save your partying time until you get back home, until you get back to your restaurant, your hotel, back to your campground. Take care of each other," said Fisch.

The death toll peaked in 2000 with 20 fatal crashes involving motorcycle riders.

Most of the deaths in the past were caused by automobile drivers who didn't keep an eye on the smaller vehicles on the roads in much higher quantities.

Event Information: Visit icFlorida to learn more about Bike Week events