There appears to be a noted divide between those that prefer motorcycles and those that view them as a vehicle of heightened risk. When alcohol is combined with that heightened risk, the results can be devastating. Industry studies have shown that motorcycles are more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident, whether alcohol is present or not.
In fact, 46 percent of motorcycle riders under the influence of alcohol who are in accidents die, according to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that motorcyclists involved in deadly accidents were 2.5 times more likely to have had alcohol in their systems as compared with automobile drivers. Additionally, nearly one half of all deadly accidents involving motorcycles are due to the use of alcohol.
The time of day for the ride will also heighten the risk. Statistically, the worst times for motorcyclists who consume alcohol and then proceed to ride includes nights and weekends. In 2007 alone, nearly 57 percent of all operators, both car and motorcycle, consumed alcohol between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. and thus were killed in crashes on the weekend.
Of the deadly motorcycle accidents that occurred, 25 percent involved a rider driving off of the road or overturning and subsequently falling off the bike. In 2010, the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Study showed that those motorcycle riders with a BAC level even within 0.05, the legal limit, had trouble with performance.
Riders will often comment that the accompanying alcohol improves the ride, yet the legal consequences of riding a motorcycle while under the influence are significant, as they can include a loss of license or time spent in jail. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, riders who are caught while operating a motorcycle with even the slightest amount of alcohol in their body are subject to a minimum of a 90-day license revocation, with penalties easily increasing.
The MSF estimated that even the slightest amount of alcohol in the system of a rider will increase the chance of crashing by up to five times. Additionally, riders with a BAC over 0.05 percent will increase their chances of crashing by up to 40 fold.
Although no one is publicly supporting the mixture of alcohol consumption and motorcycling, there are serious problems with mixed messages in standard American culture that educators and policy makers continue to fight. Fortunately, there are some progressive motorcyclists who are mindful of safety and have started clubs to promote clean riding. Until every motorcyclist makes the commitment to riding without the alcohol buzz, the heightened risk will continue to exist.