02

Blog

Texas Bicycle Accident Lawyer: Can You Legally Drink and Bike?

Bicycling Under the Influence - Are You Breaking the Law?

As a bicycle accident attorney, I often find myself in conversations with bicyclists about whether riding under the influence is legal. This topic has recently gained steam, especially with the introduction of more bicycle lanes in urban areas (connecting residences to watering holes) and the growing popularity of pub crawls such as the monthly Critical Mass ride in Houston. The answer to whether pedaling under the influence is legal depends on each state’s respective DUI laws. This article addresses the issue in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

photo 3

DUI laws in most states prohibit the operation of a vehicle while under the influence. Nevertheless, “vehicle” is a broad term that could arguably apply from a skateboard to an oil tanker and everything in between. Therefore, we must look to each state’s DUI laws to determine whether bicycles are included in the definition of prohibited vehicles.

In Texas, the law (Tex. Transp. Code Ann. §49.04) that prohibits driving while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances is written so that it applies to motor vehicles and therefore does not directly apply to bicyclists.

Louisiana has a DUI law that prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, vessel, or other means of conveyance while intoxicated. The issue relating to bicycles came to a head in 2000 when the Louisiana Supreme Court decided the criminal case of State v. Carr, 761 So.2d 1271 (2000). In Carr, the Court held that the DUI law did not apply to a bicycle because both the interpretation and intention of the law were ambiguous in their application to bicycles [ed: same is true according to a South Carolina Attorney General’s opinion]. Since Carr, Louisiana lawmakers have not amended the statute to include bicycles.

In contrast, Mississippi’s law (Miss. Code Ann. §63-11-30) that prohibits driving while under the influence applies to all vehicles, including bicyclists. Therefore, bicycles should not be operated while intoxicated and operating a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances may result in severe punishments.

Nevertheless, simply because an activity is legal doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a best practice. Intoxication may be more closely linked with activities that increase the risk of injury, such as riding without a helmet, at night, or without lights or reflective devices. Studies have confirmed this as well, such as one that analyzed 200 injured bicyclists at a trauma center in Austin, TX. This study found that 40 of these cyclists either had elevated blood alcohol levels or reported consuming alcohol. Additionally, this study found that bicyclists who had consumed alcohol had a higher rate of injury while riding at night or in the rain. Even in light of a separate 2007 study demonstrating that more bicyclist fatalities result from motorist intoxication than bicyclist intoxication, we encourage bicyclists to avoid riding under the influence when possible to ensure a safer shared roadway dynamic between motorists and bicyclists.

Comments

20168250raxr
Aug 26, 2016

As a bike crash lawyer, I have seen far too many crashes that get unfairly reported when a vulnerable road user such as a cyclist or pedestrian is involved.  There is a tendency to turn the initial focus on the conduct of the victim.   This sets up a situation of victim blaming and promotes the […]

Read More
14115397_10209964575208064_7257094583491505930_o
Aug 26, 2016

Well, road rage has again reared its ugly head near Charlotte, North Carolina. This time no one was hurt, but the behavior was life threatening, photos were taken, and the social media story went viral. As a bike crash attorney in Charlotte, and as a member of the Bike Law national network, I deal with […]

Read More
Aug 24, 2016

He had just been launched skyward by the front end of a pickup truck.  Now the police were giving him a ticket. Jason was riding his road bike in the travel lane of North River Road in Libertyville, Illinois with his father-in-law and two friends when an impatient teenaged driver in a Toyota Tacoma pulled […]

Read More
hqdefault
Aug 19, 2016

If a picture is worth a thousand words then a video is worth a million.  As every lawyer knows, a crash will have multiple versions of the event; your client’s story, the defendant’s story, and the truth.  A video always gets us to the truth. Rarely are we as lucky to have a client with […]

Read More
IMG_3840
Aug 12, 2016

Since I have returned home from riding across Iowa, a lot of people have asked, “What’s RAGBRAI like?” Well, it’s a lot like riding your bike for the fun of it with your friends and meeting lots of like-minded folks along the route—kind of like when you were a kid. It’s also like a choose-your-adventure […]

Read More
13612282_10209884791222956_2170951003735034556_n
Aug 04, 2016

On July 12, House Bill 959 was signed into law and it changes a few things for bicyclists. What effect, if any, will these changes have on bicycle safety? A little background, if you haven’t been following along. Last summer, the Legislature passed HB 232 and set up a working group to study North Carolina […]

Read More
Jul 29, 2016

On June 7, 2016, Charles Pickett, Jr., while under the influence of an unidentified controlled substance, drove his pickup truck into a group of cyclists in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  In doing so, he killed 5 people, and seriously injured 4 others.  The tragedy gained national attention, and there was an outpouring of support for the cyclists […]

Read More
Bike crash
Jul 19, 2016

You can’t believe that just happened. You were cut off. Left hooked. Doored. However your crash occurred, it happened, and thankfully you are walking away, shaken and pissed off. Sadly, you can’t say the same for your bike. Your frame is cracked or bent. Fork or wheels trashed. Saddle ripped. Who is going to pay? […]

Read More
DC law
Jul 12, 2016

July 12, 2016 @ 1 p.m: Washington, D.C. just took a very big step forward in protecting the rights of vulnerable road users.   Bike Law’s Timmy Finch was there. Today, Council approved the first reading of the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2016. [Read more about the bill and its postponement last month.] […]

Read More
1410576_630x354
Jul 02, 2016

It’s been a brutal start to the summer for cyclists.  From New York to Michigan to San Fransisco and everywhere in between we’ve seen a level of carnage unmatched as far as I can remember.  I’ve been told that there are all sorts of possible reasons for these bike crashes, mostly some combination including more […]

Read More
IMG_3687
Jun 28, 2016

11:30 am UPDATE: Act pulled from today’s Agenda in last minute move.  This means it HAS to come up at the July 12th meeting.  We will be there!  Today, the DC Council will vote on the “Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2016.”  If passed, the act will end the antiquated legal doctrine of contributory […]

Read More
Jun 27, 2016

Although we negatively judge our American neighbours repeatedly over their gun laws, when the weapon is a car (and it is used to seriously hurt or kill a cyclist or pedestrian) they are way ahead of us and find our system appalling. A large number of States have already passed Vulnerable Road User Laws and […]

Read More
Load More