The 2013 Republic of Texas (ROT) Bike Rally is starting today. And safety is a concern.
According to the Austin Police Department, 2012's ROT Rally weekend saw in 175 crashes, 95 injuries, 104 DWI arrests and five deaths – three of which included motorcycles.
This year, Austin Police are aiming to reduce those numbers. Earlier this year, APD, along with other members of the regions 15 law enforcement agencies, formed Arrive Alive Central Texas. On Monday, the group met and specifically discussed safety initiatives for ROT weekend.
Senior Police Officer Jermaine Kilgore says the proper tactics are going to be used to ensure safety during the rally.
"As far as the DWI, there is going to be a no refusal during the weekend," Kilgore says – a reference to APD’s program of mandatory blood draws for suspected drunk drivers. "There is going to be an increased number of officers on the roadways in an effort to make this event successful and safe."
Related: 2013 ROT Rally Street Closure Map
Austin has seen a sharp increase in traffic related deaths recently. According to APD, there has been a 47 percent rise in motorist and pedestrian deaths from 2011 to 2012. Police blame driver/pedestrian impairment, excessive speeding and aggressive driving as the main causes for these deadly results.
"For people that are participating in the ROT rally, we ask that they don't drink and drive, especially if you're going to be on your motorcycle," Kilgore says. "That is something that is going to compound a problem with people that are riding motorcycles."
Citywide concern over motorcycle-related deaths reflects a trend throughout the U.S. as a whole. In a 2012 report by the Governors Highway Safety Association there was a nine percent projected increase for motorcycle fatalities in the U.S. in 2012 compared to 2011. Preliminary data also showed a 4.3 percent increase in motorcycle fatalities during the first nine months of 2012. The report states that motorcycle deaths more than doubled from 1997 to 2011.
ROT is the largest motorcycle assembly in Texas. Event organizers claim 200,000 partiers should fill the downtown streets of Austin for the rally's parade and party Friday night.