Cycling Under the Influence

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Cycling Under The Influence: A US view from Hogan Injury
Cycling Under The Influence: A US view from Hogan Injury

We wrote recently about the danger of distracted drivers to cyclists. A guest article follows from US specialist lawyers Hogan Injury about the dangers to cyclists if they are cycling under the influence. 

One challenge faced by the public today is the growing number of fatalities involving cyclists, particularly those who are cycling under the influence of alcohol. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 1,000 cyclists died and almost 467,000 were injured in the United States in 2015. Among the deaths, 37% had alcohol involvement either for the motor vehicle driver or the cyclist.

Cycling has increased substantially in popularity over the last decade, and cycling has become a go-to transportation means for a number of Americans for both economic and health reasons. In 2016, about 12.4% of Americans or around 66.5 million rode their bicycles on a regular basis. The number significantly increased between 2012 and 2014.

One can say that bikes may not pose the same safety threat as do motor vehicles, but it does not omit the fact that cycling under the influence is a serious concern. Cycling under the influence of alcohol can cause property damage, injuries to oneself, and injuries to pedestrians. A drunken pedal cyclist can have impaired sense of balance, inability to navigate and perceive hazards, and is more likely to be reckless with behaviour such as speeding. It was also found that cyclists under the influence are less likely to wear their helmets.

Every US state has its own laws surrounding cycling under the influence. Some states only consider motor vehicles when it comes to laws concerning road safety, while others treat cyclists the same way as any motor vehicle drivers in terms of legal process. In California, for example, bicycle riders may be charged with DUI or DWI offense and follow the same legal proceedings as drivers of motor vehicles. Helmet Laws and Distracted Driving Laws also apply to bicycle riders.

To avoid road accidents while on a bike, here are a few best practices to keep in mind:

  • Bikers must wear their helmets every time they ride, and make sure that it is well-fitted. It is still the most efficient way to protect one’s self from the head injury in case of a crash.
  • Bicyclists must increase their visibility on the road by wearing brightly coloured clothing during the day, as well as at dawn and at dusk. During the night, riders must use a front light and a constant or flashing red rear light and we recommend the use of reflective markings on the bike and or on the clothing.
  • Just like any vehicle drivers, cyclists are required to follow traffic rules – traffic signs, road lanes, signals, etc. Cyclists must ride in the same direction as the traffic.
  • In case of getting drunk, a bicyclist must be responsible enough not to ride their bike, and instead, take a cab and put their bike in it with them.
  • On the other hand, motor vehicle drivers must share the road with cyclists. Be watchful for cyclists when making turns and allow at least 1.5 metres clearance when passing them on the road. Also look for cyclists before opening a car door or pulling from a parking space.

With the rise of bicycle riding in popularity recently, come the risks. It is then important that riders take responsibility for their own safety and the safety of others while on the road. Every cyclist must know that cycling under the influence can always have legal repercussions.


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