The latest reports (2019) found that car crashes claimed the lives of an estimated 38,800 people in the US. These accidents also led to as many as 4.4 million people suffering from serious injuries. Both, however, represent a 2% decrease from the estimates of the previous year.
Many of these collisions involved motorcycles. The same goes true for 2018, during which there were 4,985 motorcycle fatalities.
Just like with car crashes, motorcycle accidents also happen due to intoxicated riders. Unfortunately, many people think that DUI law for motorcyclists isn’t as stringent. This is untrue, as DUI laws apply to all motor vehicles, and motorcycles are a type of motor vehicle.
To that end, we created this guide on driving under the influence while riding a motorcycle. Read on to learn what the laws and penalties are so that you will always think twice before drinking and riding.
A Primer on DUI, DWI, and OUI
“DUI” stands for “driving under the influence.” On the other hand, “DWI” is an acronym for “driving while intoxicated.” Finally, there’s “OUI,” which means “operating under the influence.”
Most people use the DUI acronym, but some states and cities refer to such offenses as DWI or OUI. So, the definition differs depending on the location, designation, or specific circumstance.
In any case, these three refer to a similar thing: operating a motor vehicle under the influence. The “influencer,” in turn, is often alcohol, but it can be any other intoxicating substance. For instance, prescription, over-the-counter, or illicit drugs can also be intoxicating.
Types of Vehicles Covered by Standard DUI Law
In the US, the 40 CFR § 85.1703 codifies the definition of motor vehicles. It defines a motor vehicle as any self-propelled vehicle that can transport a person. It can also be a motor vehicle provided that it can move any material or apparatus.
However, a vehicle isn’t a motor vehicle if its top speed is less than 25 miles per hour on level or paved surfaces.
As such, all vehicles that have an engine, be it a sedan, a bus, a truck, or an RV, is a motor vehicle. Since a motorcycle also meets the code’s definitions, then it’s also a motor vehicle. Therefore, the DUI laws that apply to drivers also apply to motorcycle operators.
Variations in DUI State Laws
In some states, DUI refers specifically to driving while drunk, while others use DWI. However, some states use both terms, too. In these areas, one is specific to alcohol; the other is for drugs.
In any case, most states use BAC to determine if one is driving while under the influence of alcohol. BAC stands for “blood alcohol content.” A driver whose BAC goes beyond the state’s threshold can get charged with DUI, DWI, or OUI.
Of the 50 US states, 49 have set a BAC threshold of 0.08%. Utah is the only state that doesn’t enforce this limit. That’s because, in the Beehive State, it’s already illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.05%.
DUI Penalties for Motorcyclists
The majority of states impose some form of jail time for DUI offenders. In some, like Arizona, Arkansas, and Georgia, the minimum is 24 hours. In many others, the maximum is one year of jail time.
However, Vermont has the longest, with the maximum allowable jail time being two years. At the same time, states like Hawaii and Kentucky doesn’t impose any kind of imprisonment.
Aside from jail time, DUI offenders will also face hefty fees. This can range from as little as $150, but if you live in Oregon, you may get charged up to $10,000.
If caught, DUI motorcyclists will also face license suspension in all but one state. Pennsylvania doesn’t impose this penalty, nor does it have a jail time policy. In the other states, a motorcycle license can get suspended anywhere from 30 days up to three years.
Why You Should Always Think Twice Before You Ride Drunk
A BAC of 0.05% raises a person’s risk of getting into a fatal crash by seven to 21 times. The thing is, all it takes is a couple of 12-ounce beers taken within an hour to get an average man’s BAC to 0.05%.
Now, keep in mind that a motorcycle doesn’t have the same enclosure as cars. Nor does it have the same safety features, such as seatbelts and airbags. That’s why driving under the influence of whatever substance is a deadly idea.
There’s also the fact that the average motorcycles weigh around 500 to 1,000 pounds. During an accident, that kind of weight can cause a massive amount of property damage. It can also cause severe injuries if a person gets trapped under the bike.
Even if you don’t injure others or cause property damage, your DUI charge will stay on record for five to 10 years. You likely would have a hard time getting a good deal on your rider’s insurance, too. Moreover, it’s possible that your state would require you to take out an SR22 insurance policy.
As you can see, there are far too many risks and dangers of riding a motorcycle while impaired or drunk. It’s not worth it, so always think twice or even thrice before you get on that bike drunk.
Drink Only if You Won’t Ride
The DUI law for motorcycles may vary from state to state, but they all exist to protect road users. Never underestimate the power of alcohol and drugs, as they can dampen your faculties.
So, if you’re going to drink, make sure you don’t ride afterward. Instead, have someone else who has 0.00% BAC take you and your bike home.
Ready for more driving and riding safety guides like this? Feel free to check out the rest of our site’s other grease and gear tips then!