Call it what you want, bicycling while intoxicated, BUI, drunk biking or cycling under the influence (CUI), understanding the laws and risks associated with the action is important. All in all, biking after drinking is likely safer than drunk driving, and, in fact, having a few beers after a long ride is common in the biking community. Further, having a drunk individual get on their bike rather than in their car after a night of drinking may seem like a victory in the eyes of the community, however, the truth is that in many states the law still views BUIs as unlawful; more importantly, studies have shown that biking under the influence is unsafe.
There are discrepancies among states when it comes to dealing with drunk bicyclists. Some states have made drunk biking legal in order to cut down on the number of drunk drivers, while other states have just applied its standard DUI penalty, usually meaning a BUI conviction will result in a large fine, license suspension and jail time.
Then there are states such as California, which have amended a section in the Vehicle Code specific for biking under the influence, making it illegal for any person to ride a bicycle on public roadways under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination of both. Similar to the requirements used while testing drivers for a DUI, anyone stopped for a BUI may request to have their blood alcohol level tested via blood, breath, or in some cases, urine. The punishment for a BUI in California is a fine up to $250 and no jail time. However, the offense will still be treated as a misdemeanor, leaving an individual with a criminal record. Further, if the person cited for a BUI is under the age of 21, this may result in the suspension of their driving privilege for up to 1 year.
Unlike driving in a car, where the driver is protected by airbags and the exterior of vehicle, bicyclists face greater risks when riding on public roadways. The main risks associated with intoxicated bicyclists come as a result of the alcohol’s effects on psychomotor skills, cognitive functions, and safety behaviors. Further, impaired bicyclists are more likely to expose themselves to increasingly risky situations, such as not wearing a helmet, riding at excessive speeds, at night, on highways and in more dangerous weather conditions. Studies have tested and proved that when alcohol is added to the picture, bicyclists are more likely to be injured. In fact, riding a bicycle often requires greater coordination and awareness than driving a car. According to a study by Johns Hopkins University, bicyclists who have been drinking tend to struggle when it comes to competently focusing on more than one task at a time, causing them to lose sight of all the possible dangers that are around them. Further, researchers found that having a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) at the legal limit of 0.08 percent or higher results in the risk of injury while riding a bicycle increasing nearly two thousand percent. In fact, even having a BAC of 0.02 percent makes a bicyclist’s risk of injury nearly six times higher than one riding a bicycle with no alcohol in their system.
As with traditional DUIs, if cited for a CUI, it is important to consult experienced defense attorneys that understand the nuances associated with this particular type of law. Though the penalty is significantly less than a DUI, it is important to be informed of the law and risks associated with biking under the influence.