So you’ve had a few drinks and you need to get home… you can’t drive but that’s not an issue as you cycled over to the bar. Do you just hop on your bike and peddle home or do you walk or ask a non-impaired friend for a ride home? Just how dangerous is drunk cycling anyway? What are the laws surrounding impaired cycling in the USA?
It seems the on the ethics on biking drunk has some heated debate as you can read over at The Guardian.
People might think well I know I can’t drink and drive a car, but I’m okay to drive a bicycle but realistically you’re probably worse off because you don’t have that protection of a metal body around you. Riding a bike demands a cetain amount of clear judgment, something that over consumption of alcohol inevitably blurs
Bicycles and DUI/DWI Laws
States and courts are split on the subject of drunk bicycling. Some people automatically doubt the amount of harm a bicyclist can cause to others, considering the nature of a bicycle. However, some states and their laws acknowledge that, even assuming a bicyclist likely only harms themselves by drunk biking, an injury to a drunken rider can have a profound effect on others, especially their family members.
“In Minnesota you cannot get charged with a DWI on a bicycle as long as there’s no device or motor on it that would alter the bike to make it run on anything other than human power.” says Minnesota DWI and criminal defense lawyer Jeff Dean.
In California, drunk cyclists can be slapped with a DUI and charged roughly $250.
New Stats Show Increased Risk for Bicycles
According to the New York Times, 21% of autopsies for NY City cyclists who died within three hours of their accidents detected alcohol in the body. This study was done on 225 cyclists who died in fatal accidents, 176 of which were tested for alcohol. But because alcohol is metabolized with time, only 84 of those cases the bicyclist had died within three hours of the crash were considered to have valid tests. Of those, 18 showed signs of alcohol.
In the United Kingdom, the Road Traffic Act says it’s an offence for a cyclist to be “unfit to ride through drink or drugs, that is to say, is under the influence of drink or a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the cycle”. Penalties appear unclear, as you cannot be forced to take an breathalyzer test.
How many people are killed/injured bicycling ?
According to PedBikeInfo, in 2014, 726 people lost their lives in bicycle/motor vehicle crashes, just under two people every day of the year in the U.S. This is a slight decline from 2013, when 749 were killed – the highest number of fatalities since 2006, when 772 were killed, and a major increase from from the 682 bicyclist fatalities reported in 2011.