Complete Guide to DWI on Motorcycle

June 21, 2024


Many people still think that the type of vehicle you are driving at the time of a DWI arrest either makes a difference or should make a difference in the charges leveled against them in court. The fact of the matter is a DWI is a DWI, no matter what type of motor vehicle you are driving. Cars, trucks, commercial vehicles, golf carts, lawn mowers, tractors, scooters, and motorcycles… all of these are encompassed under the umbrella of “motor vehicle.”

Driving while intoxicated in any vehicle is playing with fire. This can result in serious injuries and/or death, as well as property damage, and serious legal problems. However, for the purpose of this post, we want to discuss the dangers of a DWI on a motorcycle. While motorcycles certainly carry a number of advantages as a vehicle, they are definitely at a disadvantage when competing with other automobiles on the road, and when alcohol is involved, the risks increase tenfold.

Think about it. You’re riding a bicycle down the road and you either hit something, get hit, or even simply fall (and this scenario is WITHOUT the influence of alcohol). Odds are, you are going to be injured in some way. When that bicycle goes up against a larger vehicle, it does not stand much of a chance, and the injuries can be far more serious, such as a death occurring. So, why are we discussing bicycles here? A motorcycle is, in some ways, a souped up and glorified bicycle. Sure, the wheels are larger (but motorcycles do only have two) and there is a gasoline powered motor, and you do not have to pedal it manually to operate it. However, motorcycles are still much smaller than other vehicles, and even if they are fast for what they are, they cannot compete with the velocity and force of other automobiles on the road.

DWI accidents involving a motorcycle are most likely to result in serious injury or death to the biker, regardless of whether or not he or she was intoxicated at the time of the incident. Traveling alongside much larger vehicles on the roadway, a motorcyclist does not even have to be speeding for any impact to result in serious injuries or death. Recently, a 17-year-old young man in Georgia found this out the hard way. In his case, alcohol was involved. Other parties sustained minor injuries in the accident, but it was the teenage motorcyclist who had to be airlifted to a nearby hospital.

Drinking and driving in any vehicle is a bad idea. However, if you are going to partake of alcohol, you need to consider not only the consequences of drinking and driving in general, but also the ramifications of any accident involving the more vulnerable vehicles on the road.

Summer Patrols

This summer, New York State Police worked with Orchard Park Police in New York to conduct a “Motorcycle Safety and Education Detail.” During, the detail, police checked over 500 motorcycles at a checkpoint on California Road and issued 95 uniform traffic tickets, 55 were for the use of illegal helmets. One notable arrest was of a 43 year old male who was arrested for Driving While Intoxicated. The motorcycle checkpoint was brought about as a part of Motorcycle Safety Month.

Last week two long islanders were killed in a motorcycle crash. Two women in their mid-twenties were thrown from a motorcycle when they were rear ended by a suspected drunk driver. The man who hit the two on the motorcycle is facing a DWI charge as well as 2 counts of vehicular homicide.

With summer months and increase in beautiful weather, there will be increased motorcycle riding. If you are driving a car make sure you stay extra aware of motorcycles on the road. Additionally, all motorists must obey New York Laws, especially operating vehicles or motorcycles under the influence or alcohol or drugs. DWI’s in motorcyclists deserves the same concern as DWI’s in vehicles, especially with as many as 2,100 motorcyclists suffering fatal injuries, and 50,000 suffering serious injuries yearly.

Bottom line: drinking and riding a motorcycle do not go together. A motorcyclist who chooses to drink and ride is more likely to be involved in a fatal drunk driving incident. According to DMV NY, “alcohol is a major contributor to motorcycle crashes, particularly fatal [ones].” With statistics as high as 40-45% of all riders killed in a motorcycle accident being due to the consumption of drugs or alcohol, awareness and prevention is necessary.

Additionally, only one third of the fatal motorcycle accidents had a BAC above legal limits. The problem is that anyway you look at it, “riding under the influence of either alcohol or drugs possess physical and legal hazards forever rider” and motorist out there regardless how much or how little you drink.

It should also be noted that motorcyclists are subject to the exact same DWI law standards as motorists. All motorcyclists should make the decision to not drink and ride, or drink and not ride. Making the decision to do both drink and ride never ends well and places yourself and everyone around you in danger.

Motorcycles and DWI in New York

Many people love riding motorcycles because they enjoy the thrill of going fast and being out on the open road unconfined. Even avid bikers, however, might not know the many ways in which motorcyclists are physically vulnerable. In a crash, a motorcyclist is more likely to be injured than an automobile driver. One of a motorcyclist’s most vital riding skills is their judgment.

Many motorcycle crashes involving DWI involve bikers who were impaired by alcohol or drugs and thus could not use their judgment in deciding to swerve or brake at the right time. Alcohol is a major contributor to motorcycle accidents. Studies have shown that almost half of all riders killed in motorcycle accidents had been drinking. Only a few drinks in a rider’s system are enough to impair their vital riding skills. Motorcycle riders are more likely to be killed or severely injured in DWI accidents. On a yearly basis, it is estimated that 2,500 motorcyclists are killed and 50,000 seriously injured in DWI accidents. Alcohol and drugs have drastic effects on a motorcyclist’s mental and physical abilities.

After only one or two drinks, a motorcycle rider’s mental processes such as awareness, concentration, and judgment are affected. Also, alcohol and can cause a motorcyclist’s reaction time to slow down and the rider may be unable to perform the complicated task of operating a bike. Drugs such as depressants and stimulants can impair vital riding skills such as judgment of the riding environment, road-surface awareness, perception of other vehicles, turning-speed selection, and defensive riding ability. Marijuana can alter a motorcycle rider’s time/space perception and fragment thought. The drug can also cause impairment of a rider’s immediate memory. Marijuana use can alter a motorcycle rider’s perception of other vehicles, night vision, braking, defensive riding abilities and evasive maneuvering skills.

New York DWI Laws for Motorcyclists

If a rider is found to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit in New York, they may be charged with DWI. A motorcycle rider with a BAC of .08% or above is considered legally intoxicated. If a motorcycle rider is stopped by a police officer on suspicion of DWI, they will usually be give either a breath test, a blood test, or a urine test to determine their BAC. Motorcycle riders convicted of DWI in New York face a minimum 1 year revocation of their motorcycle operator’s license. If a motorcycle rider is convicted of being under the influence of a drug, the offense is called DWAI Drugs (Driving While Ability Impaired by the use of a Drug). This offense subjects a motorcyclist to a 6 month suspension of their license. If a motorcyclist is found to have a BAC of .05%, they may be convicted of DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired). The penalty for this offense is a 90 day suspension of a rider’s license. Motorcycle riders convicted of DWI offenses in New York also might be subject to court fines of between $300 – $10,000. Motorcycle riders convicted of DWI offenses might also be sentenced to community service or required to attend an alcohol or drug education program while their license is revoked or suspended.

How Police Officers Spot Intoxicated Motorcyclists

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has established standards for police to use in detecting motorcyclists who are intoxicated. These standards are behaviors that distinguish between impaired and normal operation of motorcycles.

One of the main signs that a motorcyclist may be intoxicated is if the rider cannot negotiate curves. Sometimes an impaired motorcyclist may drift to the outside of their lane, or into another lane, through the curve or while turning a corner. This type of behavior is caused by alcohol-impaired balance and coordination.

Another behavior which might show that a motorcyclist is intoxicated is if they have trouble parking and dismounting their motorcycle. Generally, a motorcyclist must turn off their engine, and use the kickstand to park the motorcycle. The rider must then balance their weight on one foot while swinging the other foot over the seat to dismount the motorcycle. If a motorcyclist has trouble balancing their bike when they are at a stop this might be a signal that they are intoxicated. An unimpaired motorcyclist will usually place one foot on the ground to keep the bike upright, while leaving the other foot on the peg nearest the gear shift lever. If a rider is intoxicated they may shift their weight from foot to foot to try to maintain balance. If a rider has turning problems, this may also indicate that they are intoxicated. If a rider attempts to maintain balance at slow speeds or during a turn but there is an unsteadiness or a “wobble” in the front handlebars or the front wheel of the bike, this may be a sign of intoxication. Erratic movements during a turn and having an improper lean angle during a turn can signal to a police officer that a rider may be intoxicated. One of the most reliable predictors of rider intoxication is weaving. If a motorcyclist weaves within a lane or weaves across lane lines, it is highly likely that they are intoxicated.

The attorneys at the law firm of Nave DWI Defense Attorneys are experienced in handling DWI cases. If you need a lawyer who can help you obtain the best possible outcome in your DWI case, call the law firm of DWI Team Defense Attorneys.

The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem. Corporate offices for Nave DWI Defense Attorneys are located at 432 N. Franklin Street, Suite 80, Syracuse, NY 13204; Telephone No.: 1-866-792-7800. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Attorney Advertising.

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