Intoxicated Driver Motorcycle Accidents

January 2, 2024
By Michael Padway

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According to the DOT, 29% of all road fatalities in the US were caused by a drunk driving accident. And among motorcycle-related deaths, a whopping 33% were due to a drunk driver or rider.

Intoxicated driving is responsible for a disproportionate part of motorcycle accidents. In fact, an NHTSA study found that there are more intoxicated motorcycle riders involved in fatal accidents compared to intoxicated car drivers. 

What is Considered to be Intoxicated Driving? 

All US states and territories have a blood alcohol level (BAC) legal limit of less than 0.08 grams per deciliter, and driving with a BAC of 0.08 or higher is considered driving under the influence. Commercial drivers have a stricter limit of 0.04.

All states also follow the rule of implied consent, which means that holders of a driver’s license consent to provide law enforcement with a sample of breath, blood, or urine to measure their BAC during a DUI stop. 

To check your state’s DUI laws and corresponding penalties, click here.

Effects of Intoxication for Motorcycle Riders

Based on NHTSA data, 43% of motorcycle riders who died in single-vehicle crashes were alcohol-impaired. Among all vehicle classes, motorcycles had the highest drunk driving fatality rate.

Alcohol is deadlier among motorcycle riders due to following reasons:

  • It takes more fine motor skills, balancing and coordination to ride a bike, all of which can be impaired by alcohol.
  • Even at low BAC levels, alcohol can cause loss of inhibition. This in turn diminishes judgement, and causes the brain to take greater risks.
  • Reflexes and alertness are greatly reduced.
  • Alcohol impairs braking behavior. This can be fatal considering that motorcycles have a longer stopping distance compared to four-wheeled vehicles.
  • One closed-course motorcycle drunk driving test found that intoxicated riders were incapable of divided-attention driving. This means that riders are more likely to crash during high speeds or in busy environments.

Effects of Intoxication for Car Drivers 

Alcohol is involved in 25% of car accidents. In addition to the above effects, alcohol can affect car drivers by:

  • Impacting their distance and depth perception. This makes motorcycles harder to see from a distance.
  • Lowering straight line driving performance by affecting steering wheel control. This is why drunk drivers can be observed swerving and crossing into opposite lanes, which is dangerous for lane sharing or splitting motorcycles.
  • Limiting their vision. An intoxicated driver is less likely to see a pedestrian or rider until it’s too late.

How to Avoid Intoxicated Driving

  1. Don’t drink.
    • Even a small amount of alcohol can affect motor skills, visual acuity, balance, and reflexes.
    • Know your personal alcohol limit. Don’t take the legal BAC limit as a yardstick for alcohol tolerance.
  2. Plan ahead.
    • If drinks are on the agenda, plan for an alternative way home, such as a friend’s ride or an Uber.
    • Note that some states allow for a charge of attempted DUI if authorities can reasonably infer that you intended to operate the vehicle while in an intoxicated state. This means you can be arrested just for putting on your helmet and sitting on your bike.
  3. Don’t push it.
    • If you find yourself feeling tipsy, drowsy, or giddier than usual, consider yourself impaired by alcohol.
    • If you can’t get a ride home, stay where you are and find a place to rest. In general, it takes between 6-8 hours for the average person to sober up.

If you still feel tempted to drive, know that drunk driving is responsible for 61% of rider deaths in single-vehicle crashes during weekend nights.

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What to Do If You Get Hit by a Drunk Driver

Motorcycle riders are at greater risk of being hit than other vehicles because of their smaller profile that makes them harder to see for intoxicated drivers. Motorcyclists also face higher chances of severe injury or death due to the open nature of bikes and lack of safety features like seatbelts and airbags.

If you get hit by a drunk driver:

  1. Prioritize your injuries
    • If you have multiple injuries, attend to the most serious ones first, such as blood loss or gaping wounds.
    • Avoid moving in case of fractures, broken bones, or vertebrae. 
    • Avoid removing your helmet and wait for EMS. There have been cases where the helmet supported riders’ broken necks and saved their life before medical intervention.
  2. Record the accident
    • If the injuries are not severe or life-threatening, document the scene.
    • Start with your injuries, bike damage, location, and the condition of the other driver and vehicle.
    • In case of a hit and run, commit the details to memory and immediately save it on your phone. Take note of the license tags, vehicle make, model, and color.
    • Gather eyewitnesses. Record their testimony and get their contact information for follow-up.
  3. Document all expenses
    • Save all the receipts for towing, repair estimate, and actual repair cost.
    • Keep copies of your medical bills, including expenses on prescription meds and treatment.
  4. File a police report
    • Proceed to the station as soon as possible after getting medical treatment.
    • Apart from civil damages, the intoxicated driver may be guilty of a criminal offense in the form of a misdemeanor or felony.
  5. Seek legal help
    • Consult a motorcycle accident attorney to help you with the case. A lawyer that specializes in motorcycle accidents can help you claim compensation, maximize awards in case of settlement, and claim insurance.
    • Remember that there is a statute of limitations for DUI, so consult with an attorney as soon as possible to get the legal process going. 

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Michael Padway

Michael Padway uses his expertise in personal injury and motorcycle accidents to represent a broad spectrum of clients dealing with life-changing and permanent injuries for the first time. His offices are located at 235 Montgomery St., Ste 668, San Francisco, CA 94104 and at 3140 Chapman St. Oakland, CA 94601. For more information, please call (800) 928-1511.

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