What You Should Know About Motorcycles and Alcohol

The adage, “Drinking and Driving Don’t Mix”, applies to operators of all vehicles, and especially to motorcycles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) latest report of 2007 notes that alcohol is a greater risk factor for fatal accidents involving motorcycles than for any other type of vehicle. Researchers found that 1 in 3 fatal motorcycle crashes were alcohol related. By comparison, 1 in 4 fatal car crashes are alcohol related. Unfortunately, the recent repeal of the “Helmet Law” in Michigan may lead to an increase in more serious crashes and fatalities over the next few years.

For years, experts wondered whether motorcyclists riding skills could be impaired at levels below legally allowed limits. So the NHTSA set out to assess riders’ performance at varying levels of blood alcohol concentrations. Experts from the administration set up an experiment involving two dozens male participants, with a minimum of five years of riding experience, for a three day test. Riders performed both simple and complex riding tests on a course designed to assess their skills with and without alcohol consumption.

At higher blood level concentrations, .08, impaired driving was, not surprisingly, most evident. However, some impairment was noted for participants at the lower alcohol level of .05, with particularly slower reaction times in hazard avoidance tasks and passing closer to the hazard than was generally considered a safe distance. In negotiating curves, participants in all alcohol conditions, including the lowest level of .02, tended to drive at faster maximum speeds and have greater variability in speed than drivers who consumed no alcohol.

Since this study was conducted with experienced riders, operating their bikes with low to moderate blood level concentrations on a closed course, it is expected that less experienced riders with similar blood alcohol levels,  riding on less familiar highways will show more impairment when negotiating complex or novel tasks.

The results of the study are clear: having a drink or two may cause even the most experienced rider to lose control of his/her bike and crash. The attorneys and staff at the Law Offices of Henry Hanflik encourage motorcyclists to be safe by avoiding alcohol when riding.