By: Allan Siegel
Happy Hours are a staple in D.C., especially among the young professionals who flock to our nation's capital each year. D.C. is also an athletic city that is on the forefront of bicycle accessibility and safety, and when drinking and biking are combined, the consequences can be very dangerous.
A new study recently released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that in 2009, alcohol was involved in 40% of the collisions between bicycles and motor vehicles, in which either the driver or the cyclist had alcohol in their bloodstream. The number of cyclist fatalities in 2009 totaled 627. Among that number, 28% of those cyclists had alcohol in their systems and a quarter were above the legal limit of .08. The study also showed that most fatalities occurred in urban areas and during commute hours, suggesting that many cyclists are using their bicycles for transportation rather than recreation.
While biking is wonderful for our environment, we should also be equally conscious of safety. When the commute hours occur after sunset and especially after a pit stop at happy hour, taking the metro rail or bus is much safer and also an environmentally friendly option. A second way biking and drinking in D.C. intersect are through the city's group events such as bike parties and scavenger hunts. These events are great ways to combine socializing and exercise, but adding alcohol to the mix is not only dangerous but also illegal.
In D.C., an intoxicated cyclist can be charged with a DUI under the Comprehensive Impaired Driving and Alcohol Testing Program Emergency Amendment Act of 2012. The process is slightly different than a DUI for a motor vehicle because a cyclist does not automatically have to provide specimens for alcohol testing, which is the standard for motorists. The charge of DUI is based only on the officer's observations. When cyclists are found guilty of a DUI offense, however, they still face hefty fines and the possibility of jail time. So drinking and biking is never a smart choice, not just for your traffic record but most importantly for your own safety.