Bicyclists and DUI

In California bicycles are not included within the definition of a motor
vehicle therefore license suspensions or violations are not applicable to
a bike. But section 21200.5 of the Vehicle Code does make it illegal to
operate a bicycle upon a highway a misdemeanor and punishable under such
law. The difference being one does not have to take a chemical test, you
may be asked to and the implied consent rule would follow (license
suspension if you don’t complete it or later refuse). And remember all
violations with a bicycle do not go on your license since you don’t need
to have a license to ride a bicycle, according to California Vehcile
Code: 1803

Thursday, March 8, 2001

Many Bicyclists Drunk in Accidents

By Ira Dreyfuss

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – As a drunken bicyclist, Martin Guttenplan thought he was
doing fine. “I was pretty giddy and could hardly ride the bike, but I
thought I did a great job,” said Guttenplan, a Florida state
transportation planner who got deliberately drunk to demonstrate how
alcohol affects bike riding.

Guttenplan teaches bike education for the League of American
Bicyclists, a riders’ group. He was on a test course for a segment of the
TV program “Inside Edition.” He had reached a 0.12 percent blood-alcohol
level 0.08 percent can get a person arrested in Florida.

“I moved way out into the lane. I was going on the wrong side of the
cones. All those sorts of things,” Guttenplan recalled of the segment,
shot about three years ago. “But what was most scary about it was that,
in that state, I thought I was doing OK. Any sense of judgment was also

Guttenplan’s experience is reflected in a new study. Researchers at
Johns Hopkins, reviewing 124 Maryland accidents involving cyclists ages
15 years or older, found that 24 percent of those who died and 9 percent
of those seriously injured had blood-alcohol levels of 0.02 percent or

“The great majority of the ones who had been drinking were above 0.10
percent, which is the Maryland point at which you are considered to be
impaired,” said researcher Susan P. Baker. “The average blood-alcohol
concentration was 0.18 percent, which is very, very high.”

Riding a bike takes more physical ability than driving a car, yet many
of the riders in the accidents were pretty far gone, Baker said. At a
blood-alcohol concentration of 0.18 percent, “you or I probably would not
be able to find our bicycles,” she said. “It suggests to me that, if they
can ride bicycles with blood-alcohol concentrations that high, they are
probably pretty serious drinkers.”

Risks of injury rose with the blood-alcohol level, the study found. At
0.08 percent, the risk was 20 times the level faced by people with levels
below 0.02 percent.

The researchers compared those cases to 342 other cyclists who were
stopped later at the same places and times of day of the accidents. Those
riders were given breath tests to determine blood-alcohol levels.

About 3 percent of the random rider sample had blood-alcohol levels of
0.02 percent or more. However, the data probably understate the
prevalence and danger of drunken biking, said the report in the Feb. 21
issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association. The findings
only cover daylight accidents, because researchers felt it unsafe to have
investigators out at night for the onsite surveys. “Alcohol is even more
of a problem at night,” Baker said.

Researchers also found that drunken riders were less likely to wear
helmets. Thirty-five percent of the interviewed riders wore helmets,
compared with 5 percent of those in accidents. Perhaps the riders in the
accidents did not own a helmet or chose not to put one on, the report
speculated. Another possibility is that the riders were too impaired to
realize they needed a helmet, it said.

Although the study did not examine it, Baker suspected many of the
injured riders had taken to biking because they had lost their drivers’
licenses due to driving under the influence of alcohol.

A police officer in Boulder, Colo., has found this often to be the
case in his area. “I would say maybe 30 percent are people who don’t have
a license because of DUI restrictions,” said Sgt. Rob Bustrom. “They are
trying an alternate mode, but they haven’t quit the DUI part of it.”

Drivers and cyclists under the influence commonly think their ability
is greater than the alcohol tests reveal, Bustrom said. “Most people
involved in the testing feel they are doing real good … when they
don’t,” he said.


Friday, February 13, 2004

Drunken Bicyclists Could Catch Break

By Dan Tuohy

Staff Writer

CONCORD — A Senate committee passed a bill yesterday to exclude
bicycles from state motor vehicle laws so a bicyclist riding under the
influence of alcohol would not face the same penalties as a drunken
automobile driver.

Sen. Frank Sapareto, R-Derry, a sponsor of the bill, drafted an
amendment to treat bicyclists under a separate violation with a $350
fine. A bicyclist subject to the penalty would not suffer the loss of his
motor vehicle license, nor face automatic license suspension, he

Current state law for the “rules of the road” holds that anyone riding
a bicycle is subject to the same duties applicable to the driver of any
other “vehicle” on the road.

The standard was put to the test last year when Timothy Bradley of
Londonderry was arrested and charged with riding his bicycle while

Bradley, 44, of Auburn Road, pleaded guilty to reckless conduct in
connection with the case and the Londonderry police dropped the charge of
driving while intoxicated. He was riding a bicycle after losing his
license on a previous drunken-driving case in Massachusetts. He insisted
he was not drunk. When he refused to take a sobriety test, police took
him into custody and charged him with DWI, which for a second offense
carried a penalty up to a year in jail, a $2,000 fine, and extended loss
of driving privileges.

Richard Monteith, an attorney for Bradley, had argued the state’s
drunken driving law for motor vehicles did not extend to bicycles.

Local police and Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams disagreed.

The full Senate will consider the amended bill next week. Sapareto,
whose cosponsor is Rep. Richard Morris, R-Seabrook, said he does not
propose the change in any way to condone or encourage people to ride
their bikes when intoxicated.

But Sapareto insisted that riding a bicycle is not the same as
operating a motor vehicle. He initially proposed the change to clarify
state law.

“So now there is no gray area for prosecutors,” he said.

As far as driving while intoxicated prohibitions go, the bill would
also exempt wheelchairs from the definition of “motor vehicle.”

The Legislature is looking into several other DWI reforms this year,
including a bill to increase the penalty for drivers found to be under
the influence when they are carrying a passenger under the age of 16.

Rep. Robert L’Heureux, R-Merrimack, the sponsor of the bill, said the
penalty of aggravated DWI, a misdemeanor, would bring a minimum fine of
$500 and a mandatory loss of a driver’s license for at least one

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