According to FBI Statistics, in 2011 alone over 1.1 million individuals in the United States were arrested by law enforcement agencies for driving under the influence of alcohol. As numerous individuals, organizations, and state governments actively work to address the problem of impaired drivers through various different means, citizens of Louisiana have one option at their disposal that citizens of many other states do not. In Louisiana, if you are intoxicated, you can still legally ride your bicycle.
Nearly 14 years ago, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued its decision in State v. Carr, stating in unequivocal terms that Louisiana’s DUI laws do not prohibit an intoxicated person from operating a bicycle on public roadways . Although the Carr decision was based primarily upon the legislative history of the DUI statute, the result it reached offers the potential to increase public safety by encouraging impaired drivers to forgo their combustion powered automobiles in favor of simple machines powered only by their own steam. Simple logic dictates that the threat posed to the public by an impaired person behind the wheel of a bicycle will be less than that posed by the same individual behind the wheel of an automobile.
Still, before grabbing that bottle of Jagermeister and hopping on your Schwinn, there are some things to keep in mind:
Safety First. Though opting for the bicycle over the personal automobile reduces the risk of injuring others on the road, cycling on public streets has its own inherent dangers. Helmets and adequate lighting are therefore imperative for anyone using a bicycle for transportation on public thoroughfares. Traffic signals and signs should likewise be obeyed to ensure a safe arrival. Traveling in groups increases both safety and fun.
Inform Yourself. Whether you can be arrested for a DUI while riding a bicycle depends upon the state (and sometimes city) in which you are drinking and cycling. So, for instance, if you are having a Hurricane at Pat O’s in the quarter, tying one on with Jake and Elwood in Chicago, or indulging in shots of something other than espresso in Seattle, feel free to get on your bike and head over to the next party. If, on the other hand, you find yourself feeling no pain in Florida, Pennsylvania, or Hawaii, you probably shouldn’t get on that bike — unless you like institutional lighting and writing checks to attorneys. Check your local laws before heading out on the town.
Be Smart. The fact that you are riding a bicycle does not render you above the law or untouchable to enforcement agencies. Even though cycling while intoxicated is not a crime in Louisiana, there are numerous other laws that prohibit dangerous and reckless conduct, and that apply to cyclists and non-cyclists alike. Use common sense – the more impaired the individual, the greater the threat they pose to themselves and others. If someone is intoxicated they should not attempt to ride a bicycle – they should call a cab.
Eschewing the personal automobile in favor of the bicycle provides cyclists with certain distinct advantages under Louisiana law. In addition to reducing the hazards posed by drunk driving, cycling creates no pollution and provides the benefits of a cardiovascular workout to the rider. It doesn’t take much time at the bar to undo any benefit gained on the ride over though, so feel good about your ride, but go easy on the Jagermeister.