Alcohol, riding & the law

Equipment and On Road Behaviour, Laws and Rules. Cycling Promotion and Advocacy

Alcohol, riding & the law

Postby find_bruce » Wed Apr 04, 2012 5:40 pm

A recent post got me thinking about alcohol, riding & the law. As that post was a request for advice, I thought I would start a more general thread on the topic.

Alcohol & riding
Having had the pleasure of trawling through expert reports etc on the effects of alcohol, I think it is not controversial to say that the consumption of alcohol has adverse effects, even at relatively low levels, on your judgement, particularly in relation to how impaired you are and risk taking, fine motor skills and balance. There is clear evidence that drinking impairs your driving skills and you are much more likely to be invovled in a fatal accident. As I understand it, exercise does not reduce your blood alchol content.

I suspect most will agree that these skills are important for a cyclist. But here's the thing - unlike car drivers, only a very small proportion of cyclists killed on our roads had any alcohol in their system at all. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau published a report in 2006 on deaths of cyclists due to road crashes. In Australia between 1996 & 2000 there were 222 cyclists killed in road crashes. The blood alcohol content was known for 129 of those cyclists and in nearly 90 per cent of those cases, BAC was found to be zero.

So either alcohol doesn't impair cycling skills, or, what I consider more likely, relatively few cyclists ride whilst drunk.

Alcohol & the law
Whilst 0.05 BAC and random breath testing are well understood for car drivers, the situation in relation to cyclists is much less well known. Previous discussions have involved all sorts of myths, half right statements & misunderstood concepts, with the occasional reasoned & accurate response. In order to promote more of the latter type discussion, I have looked at 3 questions in relation to each state and territory.

1 Is it an offence to ride a bicycle whilst under the influence of alcohol?
2 If so, what is the maximum penalty ?
3 Can you get breath tested on a bicycle?

I haven’t specifically looked at whether you can lose your driver’s licence for riding a bike whilst under the influence of alcohol. I was surprised by the range of the maximum penalty - $100 in WA to $5,500 in the ACT

I am happy to admit this is a difficult area & I have deliberately quoted the relevant acts, regulations and rules. If you think I have got it wrong, feel free to say so – if you are able to point to the relevant sections or case law, then so much the better.

Queensland
You must not ride a bike on a road while under the influence of liquor or a drug (section 79(7) Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995). This does not appear to extend to a road related area, such as a footpath or bike path. The maximum penalty is $4,400 or 9 months imprisonment.
But because you are not driving a motor vehicle or riding a motorbike, there is no offence in relation to a prescribed concentration of alcohol (subsections 79(1)-(6) Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995).
A police officer cannot require you to undergo a random breath test (subsections 80(2) and (2A) Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995), but if you are arrested for riding under the influence, the police officer may require you to undergo a breath test (subsection 80(8) Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995).

NSW
You must not ride a bike while under the influence of alcohol or any other drug (section 12 Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999) The maximum penalty for a first offence is $2,200 or 9 months imprisonment, second (or subsequent) offence $3,300 or 12 months imprisonment.
But because you are not driving a motor vehicle, a police officer cannot require you to undergo a breath test, nor is there any prescribed concentration of alcohol (section 13 and section 9 Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999)
You are required to give a blood sample if you are admitted to hospital as a result of a road accident (section 20 Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999)

Victoria
Because you are not driving a motor vehicle, a police officer cannot require you to undergo a breath test, nor is there any prescribed concentration of alcohol (section 53 and section 49(1)(b) Road Safety Act 1986.
There is "an archaic and very poorly drafted offence" in the Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic) (s.16(b)) that imposes a maximum penalty of $1,221.40 (in the 2011–12 financial year) or two months imprisonment if you are drunk in charge of a carriage (not including a motor vehicle) in a public place. "Carriage" is not defined but would likely include a bicycle.

Tasmania
you must not ride a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the bicycle (section 4 Road Safety (Alcohol And Drugs) Act 1970) The maximum penalty is $3,90 or 12 months imprisonment.
But because you are not driving a motor vehicle, a police officer cannot require you to undergo a random breath test, nor is there any prescribed concentration of alcohol (sections 7A & 6 Road Safety (Alcohol And Drugs) Act 1970

WA
you must not ride a bicycle on a road or path while under the influence of alcohol or drugs to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the bicycle (WA reg 229) Penalty $100
But because you are not driving a motor vehicle, a police officer cannot require you to undergo a random breath test, nor is there any prescribed concentration of alcohol (sections 66 and 63-64AAA Road Traffic Act 1974)

SA
You must not ride a bike on a road or road-related area while under the influence of alcohol or any other drug so as to be incapable of exercising effective control of the vehicle. (sections 5A, 6A & 47 Road Traffic Act 1961) Penalty $500.
But because you are not driving a motor vehicle, a police officer cannot require you to undergo a random breath test, nor is there any prescribed concentration of alcohol (sections 47E and 47B Road Traffic Act 1961)
Required to present to a police officer for a test for alcohol or drugs after an accident in which a person is killed or injured (section 43 Road Traffic Act 1961).

ACT
You must not ride a bike on a road while under the influence of alcohol or any other drug (section 24A Road Transport (Alcohol And Drugs) Act 1977) This does not appear to extend to a road related area, such as a footpath or bike path. The maximum penalty is $5,500 or 6 months imprisonment.
But because you are not driving a motor vehicle, a police officer cannot require you to undergo a breath test, nor is there any prescribed concentration of alcohol (section 8 and section 19 Road Transport (Alcohol And Drugs) Act 1977)
You are required to give a blood sample if you are admitted to hospital as a result of a road accident (section 15AA Road Transport (Alcohol And Drugs) Act 1977)

NT
Because you are not driving a motor vehicle, a police officer cannot require you to undergo a random breath test, nor is there any prescribed concentration of alcohol (section 29AAB and sections 21-26 & 29AA Traffic Act)
A police officer may require you to undergo a breath test if you were involved in a crash and the officer has reasonable grounds to suspect you have alcohol in your breath or blood (subsection 29AAC(1)(b) Traffic Act).
I have been unable to find any offence in relation to riding a bicycle under the influence of alcohol
Last edited by find_bruce on Wed Apr 04, 2012 9:49 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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by BNA » Wed Apr 04, 2012 5:58 pm

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Re: Alcohol, riding & the law

Postby CommuRider » Wed Apr 04, 2012 5:58 pm

Looks good fb so thanks for collating all of this. For me, things do not seem concrete. "Must not be under the influence" hence under 0.05? And drugs too. Hmmmm.

I'd like to think being in control of a 20kg bike is less of a hazard than a drunk behind the wheel of a 2000kg car. However, so far I have not been accosted for drink riding but no doubt fatties Duncan and Barry can see this as a source of revenue raising at 10pm in the areas of Pyrmont, Surry Hills and Newtown. Then again if I saw a mobile RBT as a rider then I'll just get off the bike and walk with the bike as a ped. It isn't a crime to walk with one's bike no matter how inebriated n'est-ce pas?

The Mexicans seem to have a more civilised attitude to drink riding. Oh for the good old days of a trusty horse to take you back home from the pub!
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Re: Alcohol, riding & the law

Postby il padrone » Wed Apr 04, 2012 6:48 pm

find_bruce wrote:Victoria
Because you are not driving a motor vehicle, a police officer cannot require you to undergo a breath test, nor is there any prescribed concentration of alcohol (section 53 and section 49(1)(b) Road Safety Act 1986.
I have been unable to find any offence in relation to riding a bicycle under the influence of alcohol

http://www.lawhandbook.org.au/handbook/ ... h97Se53331
Fitzroy Legal Service wrote:Drunk riding

The relevant provisions of the RSA (i.e. Part 5) relating to drink driving refer to motor vehicles and, accordingly, do not apply to cyclists and as such demerit points are not an issue. However, there is still an archaic and very poorly drafted offence in the Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic) (s.16(b)) that imposes a maximum penalty of 10 pu or two months imprisonment if you are drunk in charge of a carriage (not including a motor vehicle) in a public place. "Carriage" is not defined but would likely include a bicycle.


Dubious application I reckon, as this law was drafted to deal with the high risk problem of a carriage driver in the 19th century being drunk.... or a CUB beer wagon driver in 1966 :wink: . Far more hazardous to the general public than a single cyclist. Just my opinion.
Riding bikes in traffic - what seems dangerous is usually safe; what seems safe is often more dangerous.
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Re: Alcohol, riding & the law

Postby Oxford » Wed Apr 04, 2012 6:54 pm

fb, for Queensland, you can ride under the influence if not on the road and the police can do nothing, should you enter the road ie leave the pathway, only then are you bound by DUI laws.

if in the case that I assume recently sparked this thread, that rider had been on the footpath, then the police were basically powerless to DUI him. however they potentially could have got him under some other law I assume.
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Re: Alcohol, riding & the law

Postby find_bruce » Wed Apr 04, 2012 9:09 pm

Thanks for the comments

Oxford, you are right section 79(7) Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995 (Qld) is expressly limited to road and I can find no provision that extends the definition to a road related area, so footpath, shared path, bike path are probably all excluded. A car door lane is probably part of the road though.

Part of the Qld law makes sense to me - ie if you are arrested for riding under the influence, the Police can breath test you. What I find weird though is that there is no link back to the prescribed concentrations of alcohol. S79(7) requires the particular rider to be "under the influence" and there is and has been considerable academic debate around the extent to which an individual is impaired at a particular BAC - a small number of individuals will be impaired at less than 0.05, whilst a small number might not be impaired even at 0.08.

Of course it is all academic because the research also shows that a highly trained & skilled person is unable to reliably detect impairment until the person is highly impaired ie likely 0.10 or higher.

The point of introducing RBT was to (1) be mre reliable (2) convince drivers that they could not escape by dubious means (3) equate a level of BAC where there is a risk of impairment, even if the individual is not actally impaired.

As no state includes a prescribed concentration of alcohol, any test is not 0.05, but some vague measure of impairment.

Il padrone - that was what I was looking for. Personally I think the requirement that you be "drunk" will give the police far more diifficulties than the definition of a carriage - it is a much tougher test than being under the influence or impaired.
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Re: Alcohol, riding & the law

Postby Ross » Fri Apr 06, 2012 7:10 pm

Off topic a bit but I've always wondered why we need different laws for different states/territories. Surely drink-riding is just as bad in Qld as it is in Victoria or Tasmania or WA or wherever? The penalties should be the same too. $5500 in ACT is a bit steep, especially considering if you get convicted of DUI driving a car you will probably cop a fine of less than $500.
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