Can A Motorcycle Passenger Be Drunk?


Owning and riding a motorcycle can present you with a lot of various situations and questions. Most people are pretty well acquainted with the rules of driving a car, but some of the rules concerning motorcycles seem to be a bit unknown.

Riding a motorcycle with a drunk passenger seems to be one of those situations where the answer is up in the air. This is something that is not tested when getting a motorcycle license and most people seem to be unsure about the answer.

So, can a motorcycle passenger be drunk? While there are no specific laws stating that a motorcycle passenger cannot be drunk, it is unwise to ride a motorcycle with someone who is intoxicated. Not only is it dangerous, but there are several other laws that can be broken when transporting an intoxicated individual on a motorcycle.

It’s obvious that you as the rider shouldn’t be intoxicated, but there is a lot to consider when giving someone a ride on your motorcycle that’s drunk. Continue reading this article before you find yourself in a situation like this so you know exactly what to do.

The Consequences Of Riding With A Drunk Passenger

There’s nothing like going out on a night in the town with your motorcycle. If you’re a responsible motorcycle rider, you’ll hopefully go out with the intention of not drinking. We all know that driving a motorcycle while drunk is just plain stupid, but having a drunk passenger is a different story (maybe).

You may go out with the intention of being a designated driver, especially if you go out with a date. It’s important to know that if you are taking a passenger with you any time you’re on your motorcycle, that passenger holds responsibilities too.

When a person is intoxicated, their reflexes and reactions are greatly impaired which are vital characteristics a motorcycle passenger needs. Drunk behavior can be a little unpredictable and unpredictability is something you should never have to deal with while riding such a vehicle.

According to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, “Passengers should be considered as a second active rider so they can help ensure that safety and procedural operations are correctly followed.” The passenger’s awareness is just as important as your awareness as the driver.

Any sort of shifting coming from a passenger can throw off your balance, especially while slowing down, going slow speeds, and/or going around corners. Someone who is intoxicated may lose a little bit of control of their body and the chances of you losing your balance with such a passenger dramatically increases.

Those who are intoxicated also have a hard time keeping their balance. Though the motorcycle driver does most of the work keeping the motorcycle balanced, that doesn’t guarantee that the drunk passenger won’t fall off from the side either because their balance is off or they simply passed out.

Though there seems to be no specific laws about having a drunk passenger on your motorcycle, a police officer can still pull you over for other violations. Depending on how drunk your passenger is, they can be cited for public intoxication.

If the passenger is impairing your ability to ride to a point where it was noticeable to either an onlooker who called the police or observed by the police themselves, you can get cited for reckless driving. You may also get cited for endangering another person by taking a drunk passenger for a ride.

As a thought for the aftermath, if the passenger ends up getting hurt in some way while you are operating the motorcycle, the passenger has a legal right to sue you for any damages done to them. Even if you were trying to be nice and make sure they got home safely, that won’t protect you.

Your insurance will likely cover the damages if you have it, but your premiums will go way up. And If you don’t have motorcycle insurance, you will personally be held liable for the damages.

At What Point Is A Passenger Considered “Drunk?”

The word “drunk” can have a few different meanings depending on the person you’re talking to. Perhaps the decision isn’t knowing whether or not to transport a drunk passenger on your motorcycle, maybe it’s more of deciding if they’re too drunk to ride with you.

Each state in the United States has their own legal blood alcohol limits. However, the threshold that most of the country abides by is a BAC (blood alcohol content) of 0.08% or higher as being legally intoxicated. For the average woman, that’s about 3-4 alcoholic drinks and for the average man, that’s about 4-5 alcoholic drinks. Of course a lot of this depends on the type of liquor involved.

You need to keep in mind that everyone tolerates alcohol differently. It’s hard to be sure whether or not someone is too impaired to be a passenger on a motorcycle if they aren’t straight up wasted. But there are a few rules you can follow that will prevent you and your passenger from getting in trouble in the future. These are rules I follow and they have proven to work well.

As the driver, do not drink at all if you plan on using your motorcycle as your source of transportation to get you home. Even if the legal limit in most places is 0.08, you can still get pulled over and given hefty fines for having a lower blood alcohol level.

As for the passenger, don’t plan on them riding on the back of your motorcycle if they’ve had more than 2-3 drinks no matter what type of alcohol they consumed. You need to draw the line somewhere and that’s a great place to put it to prevent any future problems.

Some will argue that this limit is premature; I would argue that you would probably rather not take any chances and that you both will want to safely get to your destination.

Alternatives To Giving A Drunk Passenger A Ride

Sometimes a night on the town calls for a few drinks to celebrate the weekend or a job well done at work during the week. I get that. So if you’re planning on having a few drinks, or if your passenger is planning on having a few drinks, take a few precautions to ensure your safety.

First, if you and/or your passenger plans on drinking while you’re out, simply don’t take your motorcycle. A motorcycle should only be used for times where both you and your passenger are well aware of your surroundings.

If you’re taking a passenger on your motorcycle, especially one that you don’t know very well, make sure they understand the rules of your motorcycle. Inform them that they are not allowed to have more than two drinks if they want a ride home with you. No exceptions.

If the night has gotten the better of your passenger, either call a taxi or an Uber driver for them to take them home. Wait for the driver to get there and follow them home and make sure they get to where they need to be.

I’ve had plenty of encounters where I was uncomfortable with giving a person a ride on my motorcycle. I firmly stated the rules of my motorcycle and requested they respect that. I always make sure to state that I only deny passenger rides for their safety. Having a friend mad at you is far better than having a friend that’s dead or in jail.

When There’s No Other Option

Occasionally you may find yourself in a situation where you literally have no other option but to take a drunk passenger with you on your motorcycle. Such situations usually include some sort of emergency or danger the both you need to get out of quickly.

If, for whatever reason, you are caught in a situation like this, use your discretion and proceed with caution with an intoxicated passenger. Rather than riding all the way home, ride your motorcycle to a place where you feel like you are out of danger.

Once you have taken the both of you out of the dangerous situation, either call a taxi or Uber for your passenger or call the police to help you escort your friend home. You may need to contact the police anyway if you were just in an emergency situation.

Related Questions

Can you get a DUI for being a drunk passenger in a car? You will not get a DUI for being a drunk passenger in a car. DUI stands for “driving under the influence.” Being a passenger means you weren’t driving. The law respects you being a passenger rather than the driver in this situation.

What are some tips to be a better motorcycle passenger? Some ways to be a helpful motorcycle passenger include wearing a helmet, wearing ankle covering boots, sitting close to the driver, using hand signals, and waiting to mount the motorcycle after the driver has gotten on. For more helpful motorcycle passenger tips, see my other article here.

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