Bicycling Under the Influence

The Chicago Bicycle Accident Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. take note of a concerning problem amongst bicyclists—biking while under the influence. Navigating our busy streets can be highly dangerous, even for a sober biker. Add in alcohol or drugs, and you have an equation for disaster. Bicycling under the influence is more common than you may think. According to an October 2014 report released by the Governors Highways Safety Association (GHSA), which examined recent trends in fatal bicycle accidents, in 2012 “28 percent of riders age 16 and older had blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of .08 percent or higher.”

Bicycling under the influence is nothing of a new phenomenon, and in fact has been linked to fatal bicycle accidents for more than 30 years. What is perhaps most troubling with this issue, though, as noted in the GHSA report, “is that the percentage of fatally injured bicyclists with high BACs has remained relatively constant since the early 1980s and did not mirror the sharp drop in alcohol-impaired driving that occurred among passenger vehicle drivers in the 1980s and early 1990s.”

Certainly, much of the reductions in motorist impairment can be attributed to drunk driving laws, increased enforcement efforts, and growing public awareness of the issue, brought about by safety campaigns and advocacy groups, as well as the increase in media outlets to spread the word over the dangers of drunk driving. Unfortunately, very little attention has been given to the issue of drunk bicycling, which is likely why alcohol-impaired bicycling fatality rates have remained consistent since the early 1980s.

As bicycling accident lawyers, we can’t help but think that something needs to be done to address this ongoing, and often overlooked safety issue. As it stands now, biking under the influence is not a punishable DUI offense. This is because a bicycle is not considered a vehicle, as was established nearly twenty years ago in People v. Schaefer. The irony in the ruling, is that Illinois law does provide that bicyclists are subject to the same laws as motorists. However, DUI is an offense that applies to the control a vehicle, and therefore is precluded from being applied to bicyclists.

While many other states have enacted legislation to make drunk biking unlawful, it does not appear that Illinois intends to pursue the inclusion of bicycles within its DUI statute. Consequently, until lawmakers are willing to amend the current DUI statute, or make bicycling under the influence a separate offense, the only alternative in the meantime is to promote awareness of the issue, in hopes that word will spread, and that bicyclists will begin to heed to the warnings of the risk of fatality.

Whether you travel by bike, car, or foot, it is important for us all to remain mindful of potential dangers, both to ourselves, as well to others with whom we share our roadways with. If you were injured in an accident that occurred in Chicago, or a surrounding suburb, contact the Accident Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C., at 773-516-4100, and allow us to evaluate your case, explain your rights, and discuss your legal options.