Driving under the influence of alcohol—by motorcyclists and other drivers—is one of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents and their resulting injuries and deaths. While many motorcycle-accident fatalities are caused by drivers under the influence, even more are due to alcohol use by motorcyclists, themselves, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NHTSA has reported that approximately 30% of bikers involved in fatal motorcycle accidents had blood-alcohol concentrations (BAC) over the legal limit and that approximately 45% of bikers involved in fatal accidents had some level of alcohol in their blood.

In addition, statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that twenty-nine percent of motorcyclists killed in motorcycle accidents in 2012 had BAC of 0.08% or higher, that nearly half of the fatal injuries to alcohol-impaired motorcyclists every year are sustained by riders aged 40 and up, and that those between the ages of 40 and 44 have the highest percentage of deaths with BAC of 0.08% or greater. (Drivers—including motorcyclists and others—involved in fatal accidents with BAC of 0.08% and higher are also seven times more likely to have had prior convictions for driving while intoxicated.)

Motorcycle Accidents Caused by Alcohol-impaired Motorcyclists

alcohol related motorcycle accidentsOne of the reasons motorcyclists who ride while under the influence are involved in so many accidents, per NHTSA, is that the coordination, balance, and judgment skills required for safe motorcycle operation are particularly affected by riders’ blood-alcohol levels. Inebriated motorcyclists need to operate dual brakes, and balance, steer, and shift their two-wheeled vehicles, while taking care to avoid conditions particularly dangerous to motorcyclists, such as pot holes, otherwise damaged or uneven pavement, changing wind conditions, and the tendency of other drivers to fail to look out for a motorcyclist’s presence. The skills necessary to motorcyclists’ safety can be challenging even when cyclists are alert and unimpaired, so that the addition of any level of alcohol can easily lead to collisions or other accidents resulting in a rider’s serious injury or death.

Riding a motorcycle while under the influence may also lead to the injury or death of motorcycle passengers and/or the occupants of other vehicles with whom a motorcyclist shares the road. Motorcyclists have a duty under the law to exercise reasonable care for the safety of all such individuals (and for pedestrians, as well), and may be held legally responsible for accident injuries and deaths determined to have been caused by motorcyclists’ failure to meet this required standard of care. A motorcyclist’s driving while under the influence of alcohol or narcotics is likely to be determined to constitute a breach of that standard of care under general state negligence law.

Motorcycle Accidents Caused by Other Alcohol-impaired Drivers

Motorcycle accidents and motorcyclists’ injuries and deaths are also caused by other drivers’ alcohol use. The CDC has reported that more than 1.4 million drivers were arrested in 2010 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics and that 10,322 people were killed in alcohol-related accidents in 2012.

Drivers of all motor vehicles have the duty to exercise reasonable care for the safety of drivers and occupants of other vehicles, their own passengers, and pedestrians. Just as motorcyclists may be held liable for injuries and deaths caused by their negligence, the drivers of other motor vehicles may be held liable for motorcyclists’ injuries and deaths found to have been caused by the drivers’ breach of the required duty of care.

Dram Shop Liability for Alcohol-related Motorcycle-accident Injuries and Deaths

Under many state laws, owners, operators, and some employees of restaurants and bars (or other businesses that serve alcoholic beverages) may be found liable, under certain circumstances, for alcohol-related accident injuries and deaths. The statutes or laws under which such liability is imposed are commonly known as Dram Shop Laws and exist, in some form or another, in a majority of states.

These laws vary considerably from state to state, but many dram-shop laws hold restaurant and bar alcohol servers liable for injuries and deaths found to have been caused by alcohol-impaired restaurant or bar patrons who were served alcohol while visibly intoxicated. This liability may be imposed on employees who served the alcohol, the owners and/or managers of bars, restaurants, or other establishments by which such servers were employed, and the establishments themselves, as separate corporate or other business entities.

Thus, violators of these dram-shop laws may be held legally responsible for motorcyclists’ injuries and deaths caused by other drivers who were served in violation of applicable dram-shop law. Motorcyclists who were injured as a result of their own alcohol impairment after being served in violation of applicable dram-shop law may also be able to recover dram-shop damages, under some states’ laws, for their accident injuries and deaths.

Motorcyclists’ serious injuries and deaths are often caused by alcohol-impaired driving. Our national motorcycle-accident lawyers have extensive experience with motorcycle accidents related to alcohol use. If you have been injured or a family member has been killed in an alcohol-related motorcycle accident, our respected motorcycle-injury and death attorneys and paralegals can help you obtain the compensation you deserve from all those responsible for your injuries or loved one’s death.