Impaired Riding

"Almost 50% of all riders killed in crashes were impaired!"

Home » Resources » Impairment

Alcohol

If you choose to drink and ride you have a 1-in-2 chance of making it home alive. There is NO excuse for drinking and riding.

Controlling the Use of Alcohol

The best way for motorcycle riders to keep from having their performance dangerously impaired by alcohol is to control the use of alcohol so that their performance is never impaired.

Controlling Riding

Riders who exceed their limit must stay off the bike. Here are some ways of handling the situation:

  • Leave the bike home – Smart people, knowing that they are going to want to ride their bikes even if they have been drinking, will leave the bike at home so they won’t be tempted to ride. They’ll arrange some other way of getting home, such as hitching a ride with someone who doesn’t drink.
  • Leave it there – Even if they brought their bikes, they shouldn’t attempt to ride home. Better to lock the bike up and get a ride home with someone else. It’ll still be there in the morning.
  • Wait – Most people who were riding a motorcycle before they started drinking will want to ride it afterwards. The only thing they can safely do it to wait until the number of drinks in their system is back down to a safe level.

Getting back down to a safe level once the limit has been exceeded will take time. The liver will only oxidize about one drink an hour. NOTHING can hasten this process. Some people think that hot coffee, cold showers, or exercise will help to sober them up. All it will produce is a drunk that’s wide awake, clean, and winded.

Stepping In

Peer intervention is one of the most effective ways to decrease alcohol-related accidents. It helps to get the moral support and assistance of other sober, responsible people. The more there are, the easier it is to be firm and the harder it is for a drunk rider to resist.

Those who step in can expect a lot of heat and little thanks for their efforts at the time. But they will never have to say, “If only I had…”

There are lots of ways that motorcycle riders can step in to keep their buddies from hurting themselves or wrecking their bikes:

  • Arrange a safe ride home – They can do their best to see that people don’t ride their bikes when they are going to drink by arranging rides. This is particularly important for those riders who have a reputation for drinking too much.
  • Slow the pace of drinking – Those who do drink and ride have to be slowed down if they start drinking too fast. A gentle reminder may be enough. Otherwise, get them involved in activities that draw their attention away from the alcohol.
  • Keep them there – If you can’t control a rider, try to control the bike. Try to get the keys. If that doesn’t work, try to disable the bike (e.g., loosen or switch the plug leads so they won’t fire).

DRUGS

Alcohol is not the only drug that is capable of contributing to motorcycle accidents.

Marijuana

Marijuana is the one drug, other than alcohol, that is most commonly found among motorcycle riders who have been killed or injured in accidents. However, in all but a few percent of cases, alcohol was also involved.

Studies have shown that marijuana adversely affects vision, particularly night vision and the ability to recover from headlight glare. It has also shown adverse affects upon visual search, identification, coordination, and decision-making. In contrast with alcohol, however, marijuana does not seem to lead to an increase in risk-taking.

What makes marijuana a problem is primarily its use in combination with alcohol. Research has consistently shown that the effects of alcohol and marijuana in combination are more severe than the effects of either alone. This is true with even fairly mild dosages of marijuana.

Tranquilizers

The use of tranquilizers to control emotional problems has increased over the years and has been found increasingly among accident victims. By themselves, tranquilizers are forms of a depressant and have side-effects that often produce drowsiness, lethargy, and a loss of coordination. Research has found that drivers who are on tranquilizers tend to show a reduction in reaction time, visual search, coordination, and the ability to process information. They do not seem to lead to greater mistakes.

Like other drugs, tranquilizers are most insidious when combined with alcohol, since their effects upon performance are greater than the effects of either drug alone.

Barbiturates and Antihistamines

These drugs are frequently found in medicines intended to relieve pain and congestion. Like tranquilizers, they produce side-effects such as drowsiness and lethargy, and often a loss of coordination.

Amphetamines

Amphetamines or “uppers” are stimulants and are intended to improve performance. Research has shown that their immediate effect is generally to improve attentiveness, a function very important to visual search.

Amphetamines can produce mind euphoria, leading to risk-taking. However, the biggest danger from amphetamines comes from their prolonged use. They are frequently taken by riders to remain alert on long trips. Riders using them often overextend themselves. Once the effect wears off, and it eventually will, the result can be extreme fatigue. Moreover, prolonged use of amphetamines can lead to permanent physical problems.