The Truth about Motorcycle Crashes

ording to the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center, there are approximately eight and a half million street-legal motorcycles registered in the United States. Each year, one out of every 35 of those bikes is involved in a reported crash and one out of every 1,200 or so is involved in a fatal motorcycle crash.

Everyone knows drinking and driving a car do not mix, but it may not be so obvious that "driving" also refers to motorcycles.

According to the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles, Oregon Motorcycle and Moped Manual 2004-2005, studies show that forty to forty-five percent of all riders killed in motorcycle crashes have consumed alcohol. Two thirds of that number had only enough in their systems to impair judgment. That's just a few drinks.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that "drunk driving rates for fatal crashes in 2000 were highest for motorcycle operators (27%) and lowest for drivers of large trucks (1%)."

For motorcycle and moped riders, the term is not "Driving While Intoxicated" (DWI), but "Riding Under the Influence" (RUI).

The consequences of a conviction for riding under the influence may include mandatory suspension of the rider's license, fines, community service and the costs involved with the conviction.

According to the "2001 Wisconsin Alcohol Traffic Facts Book," compiled in 2001 and published later, "[i]n 2001, 304 people were killed and 6,586 people were injured in 8,695 alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes in Wisconsin. Alcohol-related crashes accounted for 6.9% of all crashes in the state, 40% of all motor vehicle fatalities, and 11% of all motor vehicle injuries."

Information from several states has been compiled not to confuse readers, but to show that combining alcohol and motorcycle riding is a bad thing, no matter where a person rides.

When a rider is stopped for suspicion of Riding Under the Influence, officers will usually administer a breathalyzer test to measure the rider's blood alcohol content (BAC) level.

A number of factors influence the level of alcohol in a person's system, including age, sex, weight, physical condition and the rate of consumption, but according to the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles' Motorcycle and Moped Manual, "generally, alcohol can be eliminated in the body at the rate of almost one drink per hour." This does not mean a person should wait an hour then drive after drinking, but it highlights that time is the best way to eliminate alcohol.

Caffeine dehydrates and can make a person feel worse after the alcohol is out of their system and sleep, by itself, doesn't eliminate alcohol. The best cure is and always has been time. Here's an eye-opening chart that shows some typical alcohol effects over time.

If you ride a motorcycle, do it safely. Don't drink and ride, don't allow your friends to do it either. Leave your motorcycle somewhere safe and take a cab home. Don't become a statistic on the government's list of fatal motorcycle crashes.

See the latest stats for motorcycle crashes and other vehicles