02

Cambio Corsa: The Bike Law 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

Sep 29, 2014

As an Illinois attorney who represents injured bicyclists, and who also sponsors cycling clubs, race teams and bike events I love and hate exculpatory agreements.  These rights waiving documents can be devastatingly bad for the individual cyclist who has been harmed due to someone else’s negligence. On the other hand, such waivers protect cycling groups […]

Read More
Sep 24, 2014

On Monday night I went to listen to Gabe Klein present recommendations for the City of Charleston to help the city move forward with a “New Mobility.” Right away, Klein proclaimed that he is not so much a fan of proposals and studies as he is in “getting things done.” Good. We need some of […]

Read More
Sep 22, 2014

My social media feed is pretty much full with cycling news and race reports. So for the past several days, I’ve seen a lot of news and commentary on two cycling news events: (1) the Kentucky cyclist convicted of riding in the travel lane of a busy thoroughfare and (2) the New York cyclist colliding with, and critically […]

Read More
Sep 19, 2014

The October 2014 issue of Bicycling Magazine named its 50 “Best Bike Cities.” The highest-ranked Michigan city went to Grand Rapids (#41). The publication explained that “one reason” Grand Rapids was selected was: “In addition to 35 miles of new on street facilities between 2012 and 2013, there is a booming fat-bike racing scene, including […]

Read More
Sep 17, 2014

This week, a law took effect in California that is designed to increase safety for bicyclists.  The law, commonly known as a “3-foot passing law,” requires motorists to maintain a distance of at least three feet between their vehicle and a bicycle, when passing a cyclist. California is now the 22nd state with a “3-foot […]

Read More
Sep 16, 2014

The one career choice I have made that has not raised the question, “Why would you do that?” has been joining the Bike Law Team. For roughly the past five years, I was a prosecutor in Charleston, SC. Prosecution was great. I was assigned a very challenging caseload and fought hard for the victims in […]

Read More
Sep 15, 2014

Recently, General Motors launched a bicycle share program for its employees at its Warren Technical Center. The center spans 330 acres with 61 buildings in Warren, Michigan. There are already a number of ways to get around the large campus. Employees can walk, ride a shuttle, or drive their personal vehicles and hope to find […]

Read More
Sep 13, 2014

Please watch this video.  This Dutch video not only destroys our pitiful infrastructure, but also makes very important points about American cyclo-culture.

Read More
Sep 09, 2014

As Illinois bicycle lawyers, we handle all issues involving cyclists, including those caused by snow.  In breaking news, Illinois municipalities may be held liable for injuries to pedestrians and bicyclists forced into the street by snow piled onto sidewalks and bike lanes by city plows, according to the Illinois Appellate Court.  The ruling in Pattullo-Banks v. […]

Read More
Sep 08, 2014

I was asked to speak on the topic of vulnerable roadway users at this year’s Tennessee Lifesavers Conference, hosted by the Governor’s Highway Safety Office (“GHSO”). The GHSO is a branch of TDOT, and is most well-known for its extensive PSA campaigns statewide in Tennessee: “Click it or Ticket” and “Booze it and Loose It”. My […]

Read More
Sep 05, 2014

A cyclist was seriously injured in an Oregon bicycle accident on Wednesday morning. The cyclist, Richard Barrett, 67, of Corvallis, Oregon was riding his bicycle on the shoulder of NW Hill Road in McMinnville, Oregon at 9:30 A.M. when a tractor-trailer towing heavy duty farm machinery began to pass. Although the truck itself did not collide with […]

Read More
Sep 02, 2014

A driver who killed a cyclist near Rainier, Oregon has been arrested and booked into the Columbia County Jail on charges of First Degree Manslaughter, Felony Hit and Run, and a misdemeanor out of Washington County for Fail to Appear. Oregon State Police report that the driver, 34-year-old Kristopher Lee Woodruff, of Vernonia, Oregon was […]

Read More
Load More