How Big of a Problem is Drunk Motorcycling? 

motorcycles parked at a bar
Posted: April 21, 2023

Riding a motorcycle can be a risky way to get around.  


Between 2000 and 2009, the number of motorcycle fatalities per billion passenger miles was 212.57 compared to 7.28 for cars and trucks, according to a study published in Research in Transportation Economics 


Motorcyclists who choose to ride drunk endanger themselves, other motorists, and pedestrians. 

Passenger Fatalities Per Billion Passenger Miles 2000-2009 

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration 

  • Of all alcohol-impaired travelers killed on the road, more are motorcyclists (27 percent) than motor-vehicle occupants (23 percent) or light or heavy truckers (19 and 3 percent, respectively)
  • In 2020 over 5,000 motorcyclists were killed in traffic crashes. Of those, 1,436 were drunk.
  • The highest percentage of drunk motorcyclists killed in 2020 was between the ages of 25 and 29. 

The Risk Drunk Motorcyclists Pose to Pedestrians 

The average motorcycle weighs between 300 and 500 pounds. A pedestrian doesn’t fare well in a run-in with a machine like that. 


Impaired motorcyclists are more likely to speed, fail to obey traffic laws, not use turn signals or headlights, and fail to see pedestrians in crossing areas.  


In 2020, motorcycle riders killed in traffic crashes at night (40 percent) were almost three times more likely found to be alcohol-impaired than those killed during the day (14 percent.  


Alcohol can impair thinking, reasoning, and muscle coordination, which are necessary to safely operate a motor vehicle. Impaired motorists may speed, violate traffic laws, fail to use turn signals or headlights, or not notice pedestrians in crosswalks.  


In 2020, 27 percent of motorcyclists killed in fatal accidents were under the influence of alcohol. Motorcyclists in fatal accidents in 2020 had higher percentages of alcohol impairment than drivers. 

The Dangers to Self and Others Posed by a Drunk Motorcyclist 

Impaired motorcyclists pose a danger not only to themselves but also to other motorcyclists, pedestrians, animals, and the drivers of motor vehicles. 


The odds of encountering an impaired motorcyclist are greater at night and on weekends. That’s when most crashes happen, according to In 2007, about 57 percent of alcohol-impaired operators (motorcycle or car) were killed in weekend crashes, particularly between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., according to some reports.   


Here are some signs that a motorcyclist may have been drinking: 

  • Tailgating 
  • Abruptly accelerating or braking 
  • Swerving, weaving, or zigzagging  
  • Nearly hitting something 
  • Stopping suddenly or pointlessly 
  • Drifting across lanes 
  • Failing to signal 
  • Running stop signs 
  • Not using headlights after dark 
  • Driving 10 mph under the limit 
  • Making illegal or abrupt turns 
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road 

Research from the NHTSA found that 42 percent of fatal motorcycle accidents involving a car occurred when the driver turned left in front of the motorcyclist.

Ignition Locks for Motorcycles 

The NHTSA conducted a study to understand the pros and cons of motorcycle interlocks in 2017. The agency interviewed ignition interlock device  manufacturers, state officials, and a handful of motorcycle riders to see if these devices would help reduce alcohol-related crashes and fatalities on motorcycles. 


They estimated that motorcycle interlocks likely represented less than 0.1 of the 279,000 devices in service. Here’s a few of the key issues they found with motorcycle interlocks:  

  • Risk of theft: Interlocks on motorcycles are susceptible to theft. A secure locking compartment may be required to protect equipment from theft. One manufacturer suggested using a removable handset for the sampling unit to prevent theft. This would, however, create the potential for damage should the handset be dropped on the hard road surface.  
  • Weather: It is difficult to keep interlock units completely dry due to weather exposure. Moisture can lead to corrosion and device failure. It is possible to weatherproof interlocks, but this is likely to increase the cost of the equipment. 
  • Vibration: Motorcycles generate a lot more vibration than automobiles. This can lead to potential damage.  
  • Battery power: Interlocks draw power (about 20-50 mA) from the battery. The storage capacity of a motorcycle battery is about one-tenth of the capacity of an automobile battery, according to the study. According to some manufacturers, it is possible to overcome this power limitation by altering the equipment design.

Also, the NHTSA discovered that only two manufacturers provided limited support for ignition interlocks on motorcycles in the United States.  

Contact an Attorney Experienced in Handling Drunk Motorcycling Accident Claims 

If you’ve been injured in an accident with a drunk motorcycle driver, contact William Mattar, P.C. today. Our accident attorneys can stand up for your rights and fight for you to receive maximum compensation. Schedule a free initial consultation today or call (844) 444-4444 to speak to a team member right now. We are available 24/7 to take your call. 

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