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Is driving under intoxication or while intoxicated the same on a motorcycle as it is when behind the wheel of another vehicle?

Legally, the answer is a resounding “yes.” The laws are the same when you’re pulled over and charged with a DUI or an equivalent offense in your state. Motorcycles are treated the same as cars, trucks, and other vehicles.

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The issue with a DUI on a motorcycle is that the risk factors for injuries are significantly higher. About 30% of the motorcyclists who lose their lives each year on the road are driving while intoxicated.

It Is Easier for Law Enforcement to See Intoxication

Motorcycles have different control mechanisms than four-wheeled vehicles. You don’t need to maintain your balance, lean into a curve, or manage the other aspects of riding in the saddle when you’re behind the wheel instead.

Officers look for specific cues when they think a motorcyclist might be driving while intoxicated. When they see the following behaviors, there is a 50% or higher probability that intoxication exists.

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Here is a look at the six behaviors that could trigger getting pulled over while riding a motorcycle.

  • Weaving. Some drift in the lane is common. If you’re managing heavy traffic, a little weaving allows you to keep your commute times low when you can split lanes. When the behavior is unpredictable or occurs when no one else is around, an officer might want to see what is happening.
  • Navigation Problems. Are you drifting excessively during curves or turns? Does it appear that you’re braking late, making sudden corrections, or leaning improperly? Anything that seems to be unsteady will capture an observer’s attention.
  • Balance Issues. If a rider cannot maintain balance while sitting at a red light or a stop sign, an officer will begin to observe other behaviors for a DUI possibility.

Additional factors that make it easier for officers to see an intoxicated motorcyclist include having trouble with the dismount or being inattentive to the current situation.

Speeding isn’t typically seen as a factor for intoxication since motorcycles usually drive faster than vehicles. Riding above the posted limit is a violation that can initiate a stop and lead to an arrest if the circumstances for a DUI evaluation exist.

What Happens If I Have a Passenger and Get a Motorcycle DUI?

If you ride a motorcycle with a passenger who is at least 14 years old, it is typically treated the same way as if a DUI while driving a car occurs.

Your passenger has no legal liability for deciding to ride with someone who is driving while intoxicated. There could be charges if an officer suspects enabling if you are sober and a passenger, but the primary responsibility is always with the person operating the vehicle.

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If the passenger is under 14 years old, a motorcyclist facing a DUI charge could have a child endangerment modifier added to the situation.

The age limit is 16 years old in some states. In the District of Columbia, a motorcyclist with a passenger under that age faces up to $1,000 in fines and five days in jail. That’s plus whatever the other consequences are for the DUI.

Police Stops Motorcycle Driver for DUI Conviction

In Pennsylvania, a first-time offender can face between three to 180 days in jail, a one-year license suspension, and up to $5,00 in fines with a DUI conviction. If a minor is on a motorcycle, the prison time jumps to five years. Additional penalties, a longer license suspension, and community service are also required.

Here are some typical steps to follow to reinstate a motorcycle license after DUI.

FAQ About Motorcycle DUI Laws and Regulations

If you face a possible motorcycle DUI issue, these common questions are often part of the conversation with a legal professional and an insurance company. Here are the answers you need to know what to expect as a case progresses.

Can I Regain My Motorcycle License After a DUI?

After a conviction for DUI or a similar offense, your driver’s license will likely be revoked or suspended. The first means you lose it, while the second means you can get it back after meeting predetermined requirements.

In Massachusetts, that could include installing an interlock device on your motorcycle if you have two intoxication-related offenses.

You might be asked to perform community service, take riding lessons, or pay fines before a suspension is lifted.

What Is BAC for a DUI?

BAC is a measurement of the alcohol content in your blood. It is used as evidence that you were intoxicated while riding a motorcycle.

A breathalyzer is the most common way to determine this information, although other tests provide this information. If the level is .05 or .08 or higher, depending on where you live, the data can establish impairment.

Are Breathalyzer Tests Accurate?

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The breathalyzer test is mostly accurate. As with any technology, there can be false positives or negatives. Anyone who believes the equipment malfunctioned during the evaluation to determine intoxication can challenge the results in court.

Can I Still Drive a Motorcycle with a Suspended License?

You cannot continue to drive a motorcycle if you have a suspended or revoked license from a DUI conviction without facing additional legal consequences. Some states, including Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Wyoming, allow riders to get permission to use a moped.

Is Motorcycle Insurance Available After a DUI?

Most insurance carriers continue to provide liability, collision, and comprehensive coverage, even after a DUI conviction. You will likely see higher rates, especially in the first 1-3 years after the incident. Some companies will drop riders, but others specialize in covering motorcyclists with this issue on their driving records.

DUI charges can bring significant and severe penalties if a conviction occurs. Many motorcyclists in this situation rely on public transportation until their revocation or suspension period is over. The best way to avoid these issues is never to drink and ride.

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Mike Navarette has more than a decade of experience in the auto insurance industry, but that's not his true passion. He loves getting on a motorcycle to explore roads he's never traveled. You'll find Mike in the garage working on something when he isn't helping clients or leaning into curves. It's sometimes a side hustle, more often a favor, but it keeps his hands busy doing something productive. Since the first time his father strapped on his helmet and took him for a ride, Mike has loved bikes. That passion, along with a desire to help others through a deep understanding of insurance policies, led to the creation of Motorcycle Ride Coverage.

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