If you've ever shown up to a bar or a party while wearing a bike helmet, you'll probably recall how quickly the conversation changed.
“You biked here? Nice. Where do you live?”
“I guess you don't have to worry about driving drunk.”
“Can you ride a bike while drunk?”
The short answer is that, in Maine, it is not illegal to ride a bike while under the influence of alcohol. However, like with many other legal questions, the short answer doesn't cover everything.
Firstly, drunk biking is dangerous. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration conducted a study that found how often alcohol was a factor in the fatalities of bikers in 2012. This study found that 28% of bikers who died on the road had at least some alcohol in their bloodstream at the time of the accident. 24% had more than the legal limit of 0.08% blood alcohol content (BAC). These results are far from surprising when you consider how difficult it is to balance on a bike, even while stone-cold sober. Alcohol, particularly at high levels, influences your ability to stand upright, and will drastically impact your ability to balance on spinning wheels barely an inch wide. One poorly-timed weave on a narrow roadway is all that it takes to cause an accident.
Once a collision does occur, it doesn't take much of an imagination to realize that the loser is almost always going to be the biker. Even if the biker is wearing a helmet, the amount of protection available to someone on a bike will do little in a collision with a car weighing over a thousand pounds. Add to this the fact that drinking is an activity for the evening or the nighttime, making drunk biking something that would happen predominantly after dark. This lack of visibility makes the likelihood of a serious accident increase.
Secondly, different states handle drunk biking very differently. Maine is one of the states that has a law for driving under the influence (DUI) that is only violated if a person “operates a motor vehicle,” while under the influence. This means that riding a bike falls outside the reach of this particular law. Other states, however, phrase their DUI laws differently. New Hampshire, for example, has a law that defines bicycles as “vehicles,” and a DUI law that prohibits “driving or attempting to drive a vehicle” while under the influence of alcohol. Therefore, as soon as you cross the border into New Hampshire, you could face DUI charges for drunk biking.
This is just one of the ways in which DUI laws can be subtly complex. Call DUI defense attorney William T. Bly at (207) 571-8146 if you're facing DUI charges in Maine. With years of experience defending people against DUI charges, he knows all of the complexities there are to know.