Excessive amounts of alcohol in the body can have different effects for different people, but one thing is certain: it can put any motorcycle rider in grave danger. Riding a motorcycle requires the ability to concentrate, make good judgments, and quickly react to potential road hazards. However, too much alcohol can negatively affect these abilities and lead to devastating outcomes.
Why riding a motorcycle while drunk is dangerous
Riding a motorcycle while drunk is dangerous because you have a slower response time than normal, your coordination has become weak, you have trouble focusing, and your vision has become blurry.
Having too much alcohol in your body also messes up your brain and prevents you from thinking clearly. This increases your likelihood of making miscalculations and errors in judgment that could cost you your life.
How does alcohol affect the body?
Alcohol diminishes brain function and weakens thinking, reasoning, and muscle coordination which are crucial in riding a motorcycle. It also acts as a depressant for the central nervous system, meaning that different bodily functions slow down once it is consumed.
Once your reflexes and motor skills are slowed down, it will be hard for you to brake just in time. Being heavily intoxicated will also affect how long it takes you to process the situation. By the time you realize that you are about to endanger another person, it might be too late.
Once your attention span is reduced, you will not be able to focus on the road. You are likely to have trouble staying on your lane, being conscious about your speed, and being aware of traffic signals.
Once your vision becomes blurred, you may find it difficult to control your eye movement. If you cannot control your eye movement, you can miscalculate the distance between your motorcycle and other vehicles on the road. Your peripheral vision will also be affected which can prevent you from seeing other people, vehicles, or potential road hazards.
In other words, being alert is key whenever you are riding a motorcycle. This means maximizing your senses to avoid danger. But if you drink more than what you can handle, you are essentially putting yourself in harm’s way.
How to know if there is already too much alcohol in the body
Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) refers to the percentage of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream. It is determined using a breathalyzer which is a device that measures the amount of alcohol in the body by obtaining a sample of a person’s breath.
As the alcohol level increases in the body, its negative effects on the central nervous system increase as well. When a person consumes alcohol, it takes about 30 minutes to two hours for it to be absorbed into the bloodstream.
Once it is in the body, the alcohol then goes directly through the walls of the stomach and small intestine then passes into the bloodstream where it accumulates until it is metabolized by the liver.
Once the body accumulates 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter (g/dL) of blood, the likelihood of you getting involved in a crash significantly increases. Because of this risk, operating a vehicle while having a BAC of 0.08% or higher is illegal in most states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Utah is an exception though, with a lower BAC limit of 0.05%.
However, even a small amount of alcohol can affect driving ability. In 2018, there were 1,878 people killed in alcohol-related crashes where drivers had BAC levels of only 0.01%-0.07%. This just proves that regardless of how much you drink, riding will always be risky as long as there is alcohol in your body.
Is drunk driving punishable by law?
Yes. The law defines driving under the influence (DUI) as operating any vehicle with a BAC level of 0.08% or higher. However, laws vary in each state so DUI convictions such as fines, jail time, and revocation or suspension of a rider’s license will depend on where the DUI accident occurred. Some states may also require community service or alcoholism treatment depending on the legal charges.
Alcohol progression by blood alcohol concentration
A BAC level of 0.08% is already considered legally impaired. However, alcohol can start to have significant effects on your body after only one drink. This is how alcohol affects your riding abilities depending on the BAC level:
0.02% BAC – approximately two drinks
• Slight loss of judgment
• Body slowly warming up and starting to feel a bit relaxed
• Slight change in mood
• Slight visual impairment
• Lack of focus
• Difficulty in concentrating on the road and maneuvering the vehicle
0.05% BAC- approximately three drinks
• Reduced motor skills
• Reduced coordination
• Having trouble controlling eye movement
• Increased aggression
• Difficulty making sound judgments
• Slight loss of alertness
• Slight loss of ability to track moving objects
• Having trouble steering
0.08% BAC – approximately four drinks
• Balance, vision, hearing, and response time significantly affected
• Difficulty in detecting and avoiding danger
• Further loss of judgment
• Reduced self-control
• Significant memory decline
• Impaired reasoning
• Reduced ability to process information quickly
0.10% BAC – approximately five drinks
• Significant deterioration of response time and vehicle control
• Significant loss of motor skills
• Difficulty staying in your lane, recognizing road hazards, and braking just in time
0.15% BAC – approximately seven drinks
• Completes loss of motor skills
• Inability to stay upright on a motorcycle
• Complete loss of focus and control
• Failure of the senses to work appropriately
Who is likely to get involved in a DUI accident?
The people who are most at risk of getting involved in a motorcycle accident while drunk are those who binge drink and suffer from alcoholism. These are people who consume large amounts of alcohol within a short period which can make the negative effects even more harmful.
Motorcycle riders who are between 16-20 years old are also at risk. Young people who belong to this age group are ten times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than riders over the age of 21. This is because underage drinking is becoming more common and younger people tend to be more reckless.
However, motorcycle riders over the age of 21 are not exactly better riders than those who are younger than them. In 2012, a big percentage of riders who were involved in fatal motorcycle accidents are aged 21-24 years old, with BAC levels of 0.08%-32%. Most of them are college students and young professionals who were binge drinking at parties and other social events with easy access to alcohol.