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It happens. You and your partner stop for a break and they have little too much. Now what?
Let’s just say from the start – don’t do it.
But what if you’re in this situation where you do have a drunk motorcycle passenger?
Having a drunk passenger on your bike can be one of these gray areas of legality. Which is why it’s important to know your local laws, and while you may not find any local laws prohibiting it, that doesn’t mean it can’t get you in trouble.
Sometimes when you can’t find anything on the rulebooks you have to use something we all like to think we have: common sense.
Can A Motorcycle Passenger be Drunk?
Motorcycle passenger laws have not established an illegal per se limit nationally. Laws governing motorcycle passenger intoxication will vary from state to state, Check with your local jurisdiction.
A motorcycle passenger may be allowed to be drunk, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to have a drunk passenger on your motorcycle. The laws will vary state by state, so specific legality depends where you live. However, it is highly recommended not to drive with a drunk passenger on a motorcycle.
Don’t forget –
Just because there are no DUI laws for passengers doesn’t mean you can’t be arrested on other public intoxication laws.
It Depends On The ‘Whether’
State by state variance can make specific rules regarding motorcycle tricky.
Here’s a simple example;
Helmet laws vary depending on what state where you live. Some states have helmet laws (California) and some have helmet laws at all (Illinois).
Think about this;
Whether or not your passenger is even allowed to be on your motorcycle while intoxicated can not only vary depending on what state you’re traveling through, but right down to local city ordinances.
Can a motorcycle passenger be drunk on a bike? It’s really going to come down to where you’re at and the places you’re traveling through.
Just because it may be allowed to drive with a drunk passenger doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Remember, should you choose to do it you’re taking on a lot of risk.
When Are You Considered Drunk?
As a common sense thing, we tend to know it when we see it. But DUI laws are more direct in establishing illegal per se limits. Ilegal per se simply means that the act itself is illegal on its face.
Not everyone gets drunk the same way, but at some point the walking stops and the stumbling starts. There are variables such as age, sex and body mass just to name a few.
That being said here’s a few hard numbers for you in different situations to give you an idea when authorities consider you to be either drunk or impaired.
The percentages given below are based on ‘Blook Alcohol Content’ or BAC (read more about it here) that’s used to medically measure your blood alcohol levels:
- Drivers under 21 in some states, and zero tolerance – .02%
- Commercial truck drivers – .04% (illegal per se)
- Illegal per se in every state – .08%
Of course a person can be at these levels and still function pretty good, these are just some numbers to give you an idea or a measuring stick. It also tells you that if your the driver (and not the passenger) when you’re considered intoxicated.
Drunk Passenger Yes or No?
I can’t absolutely say to never give a drunk passenger a ride on your bike because a lot of people find themselves in different situations and they can give a ride to whoever they’re out with and make it home totally fine, but this is where common sense comes in.
Whether you decide to give a passenger a ride back after they’ve had a few drinks is entirely up to you, and your willingness may depend on a number of factors like how drunk your passenger is and their experience with riding as a passenger.
Aside from the BAC numbers presented above, you need to use some basic common sense to decide if your passenger can actually handle the ride. Someone who can’t stand up and function on their shoulder should not be on the back of your motorcycle.
Not everyone gets drunk to the same degree with the same number of drinks.
What Does A Drunk Passenger Mean for Your Ride?
Drunk motorcycle passengers come with extra risks you need to think about when you’re deciding whether you’ll give them a ride. Everyone knows that drinking can impair balance moderately to heavily, but you may not have thought about how this will impact your ride.
Ever had a passenger who was sleepy riding with you?
They’ll slump to the side and then jerk themselves awake and can affect the handling of the motorcycle.
If you’re in a turn – not helpful.
The weight distribution will change the stability of your bike, so a drunk passenger can lead to your bike swerving all over the road increasing your risk of crashing or getting pulled over. The passenger may also fall off the bike if they are not stable enough to support themselves.
And we won’t get into the stress you’re going to have worrying about them falling off the bike.
The Basics of Riding Two Up
Like I talked about in this article: What is Riding two-up, Having a second person on your bike is going to fundamentally change your ride, and any person you ride with should have practiced riding two-up previously. If your passenger is drunk on top of being inexperienced and you decide to ride, you’re putting yourself and your passenger in a very risky situation.
Practicing riding two-up ensures a greater chance of safety when on a ride with any passenger because that passenger will know how to ride correctly with you. Considering all the complications riding two-up can introduce like mounting, dismounting, leaning into turns, and extra weight on the bike, it’s obvious why this would be more dangerous with an impaired passenger.
There are plenty of risks on a motorcycling other than just crashing too. Like all the hot parts on a bike. If your friend is clumsy after a few drinks, then they run the very real risk of rubbing up on the wrong part of the bike and giving themselves a nasty burn. Which can be a hell of a way to ruin an otherwise fun evening.
Let’s not even get started on the smell.
Here’s the thing;
Any kind of inebriation is going to make the riding situation more complicated. Every essential part of the ride will be harder, so take the time to consider whether these steps are even feasible. If you think you and your passenger are going to have trouble with any of them, then that likely means riding will be impossible.
To Ride or Not to Ride: What Should You Expect?
It’s often said that your passenger is an active rider. The decisions they make on the bike are going to affect the bike just like the decisions you make will affect the bike.
Something I remind my wife of all of the time.
The thing is;
If you don’t feel like your passenger is sober enough to be an active rider and make the correct decisions and follow instructions, then you’re responsible for either ending the ride or not starting the ride in the first place.
it’s important that you make it home safe and sound which means considering all the factors of driving with your passenger, including just being tired. Even if your state has no laws about your passenger being drunk, a motorcycle swerving into different lanes is going to attract attention.
If a cop sees you failing to maintain lanes or constantly being distracted by your unpredictable pillion, then it’s not going to matter if you’re sober. It’s entirely possible you’ll get a ticket or worse, so if your passenger seems reckless, then it’s time to call a cab.
Many inexperienced riders may ask: when’s the right time to end the ride or decide it’s over? For that, you need to make a set of rules for yourself and your passenger to follow, common sense rules the day here
Deciding Not to Ride: What Are Your Rules?
When you decide to go out on the town on your bike you should establish a set of rules to stick by for yourself and your passenger. If your passenger knows the rules beforehand, then it’s their responsibility to follow them just like it’s your responsibility to decide not to ride.
The rules you decide may be the number of drinks you’re okay with them having or when you’re going to have them. Most people are fine after a drink or two, and you may still feel comfortable driving with a friend or date that’s only had a little bit.
You’re going to have to gauge your own level of comfort and what you’re willing to allow. If you decide a strict no alcohol rule, then enforce it. If you decide a strict limit, then enforce that too.
Just like you need to establish the rules for when you’re riding two-up on what your passenger should and shouldn’t be doing, you’ll be establishing a set of rules for when alcohol is involved.
Having said all of that, if you’re going to have a couple of drinks, plan on hanging out for a while and drink water before you leave. If you’ve already planned on a long motorcycle ride staying put shouldn’t be too big of a problem anyway.
How to Get Yourself or Your Passenger Home Safe
Motorcycles are a part of a great hobby that can be dangerous and expensive, so establishing rules and boundaries can save you time, hassle, and money. But sometimes, rules are broken, and now you and your passenger need to get home safe.
Considering alternative ways of getting home is important. Luckily, we live in a great time where if you can’t find a cab you can call an Uber, a Lyft, or a friend. These are better alternatives than trying to get a drunk passenger home on your bike.
If you need to go this route, but aren’t drunk yourself, then you can follow them home on your bike so you don’t have to leave it in a parking lot somewhere.
Following proper safety rules and common sense means a night out on the town won’t be your last. It’ll save your skin and your bike. You have all the reason in the world to exercise your common sense and tell a drunk passenger they won’t be coming home on the back of your bike.
What Are The Options?
The options are really pretty simple, but let’s take a look at a few:
If you’ve planned your ride, plan where you’ll have a drink. Make sure there’s food and other amenities in case you need to be there a while.
It happens, I’ve done it with friends. We ride to lunch and have a couple. That being said, we stay where we’re all good to go. You have to have self discipline to make this work.
Save It For The End
Don’t drink anything until you’re done for the day. My favorite time to have a beer or two is at the end of the day’s ride, gathered with friends. Nothing like watching the sun go down and swapping stories from the days ride with no worries – that’s when beer tastes the best!