According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans traveling by bicycle has increased by a whopping 43 percent since 2000. With so many people using the two-wheeled mode of transportation to get from one place to another, it can be assumed that a number of them are biking home drunk.
Drinking and driving is illegal all throughout the United States, as it involves serious risks to the drunk driver and all other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians on the road. But what about drinking and biking? Is it considered a criminal act?
DWI laws typically cover automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, SUVs, snowmobiles, motorboats, aircraft, and various other conventional and non-conventional modes of transportation. When it comes to bicycles, it is always best to refer to specific state laws as DWI laws vary from state to state.
Some states may limit the application of DWI or DUI laws to strictly motor vehicles, some may completely disregard bicycles as a form of vehicle, and others may have drunk bikers facing the same penalties as a drunk driver. Individuals have been arrested for BUI in areas such as Boulder, Colorado and Vernal, Utah. Under California’s Vehicle Code, individuals who ride a bike on the highway while under the influence of alcohol face a base fine of $250.
Although Minnesota has stiff penalties against drunk driving, there are no such restrictive laws in place for bicycling while impaired. State DWI laws only address the operation of a motor vehicle. A motor vehicle, according to the state’s definition, does not include a vehicle operated solely by human power. Of course, it must be said that although it is legal to ride a bicycle while drunk, it does not mean that it is a good idea.
Some people are under the impression that given the nature of a bicycle, a drunk bicyclist can cause very little to harm to others. Other people, however, argue that drunken bicyclists pose a risk to pedestrians and other bicyclists. Even in instances where bicyclists only harm themselves, the injuries sustained by a drunken rider can profoundly affect others—such as the injured person’s family members.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 23 percent of the 677 cyclist fatalities in 2011 had a BAC of .08 percent, which DWI law would have classified as legally drunk. Almost 3,000 bicyclist-motorist collisions occurred between 2000 and 2010, with roughly 6 percent of them involving bicyclists impaired by either alcohol or drugs.
John Hopkins researchers revealed that with a BAC of .08, bicyclists risk of serious or fatal injuries increase by 2,000 percent. Alcohol can impair their ability to maintain balance, recognize hazards, and navigate in traffic safely. Alcohol can also increase the probability of engaging in risky behavior such as riding fast and recklessly. When drunk, cyclists are also less likely to wear their helmets.
If you opt to consume alcoholic beverages, it is always best to be on the safe side and avoid riding your bicycle or driving any other mode of transportation in order to avoid endangering your life and the lives of others.