Safe Riding

Live to Ride, Ride to Live...Tomorrow

Written by  July 31, 2006

Welcome back everybody. I mentioned last month that a column on drinking and riding was coming your way, so, here it is. I will start out with a little disclaimer. When I am out riding I usually have a few beers. Sometimes I get flat hammered. The bottom line is I don’t get back on the scooter until I know I am OK to ride. I know, I know—you’re thinking I am full of crap. Well, you are wrong. My lovely wife Stephanie bought us a slick little piece of equipment last year off eBay that I highly recommend. I am the proud owner of a battery-operated breathalyzer. It’s portable, battery powered and about half the size of a pack of smokes. Friends who ride with us will tell you I don’t get on the bike if I blow over the legal limit EVER. I figured with this device, I was safe as could be ….WRONG! First off, any breathalyzer has inherent flaws, as you can read in one of the links below. Secondly, blood alcohol content (b.a.c.) below .08 is not a sure-fire pass from a conviction. Read on.

Recently two close friends of mine picked up their second D.W.I. charge. After talking to them I realized how little I know about the laws regarding operating a vehicle while impaired. Since the legal b.a.c. level dropped from .10 to .08 a while back, I assumed as long as I was under a .08 on the breathalyzer I was legal. Not true. D.W.I. convictions have been handed out in Jackson County, Missouri recently on a b.a.c. as low as .02. The b.a.c. is not the only deciding factor in a charge; impairment is also considered. So, if you are stopped for driving erratically, crossing the center line, or for any reason that causes suspicion in an officer’s mind, and if you blow only a .02 but demonstrate any evidence of impairment, you can be charged and convicted.

Ten years is a long time, wouldn’t you agree? Ten years is how long a D.W.I. stays with you. Multiple convictions carry increasing penalties. Let’s say for example you get a D.W.I. conviction. Then for 9 years, 11 months, and 30 days you play it cool. Then, out of the blue you get a wild hair and party a little too hard. A second conviction in a 10-year period carries much more severe penalties, and even though your first conviction falls off your record tomorrow, your 10 years starts all over again. The legal fees, fines and higher insurance premiums are something we all know comes with the territory, but did you ever consider the long-term effects?

Did you have a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) before your offense? Not any more. Once the DOT finds out, even if your last name is Trump you still aren’t going to get it back anytime soon. Does your job require you to have a valid operator’s license? No problem right? Just get a hardship license and some SR22 insurance and you are good to go. Wrong. Most businesses that require you to operate any type of vehicle with a license are gonna fire your ass ASAP. Why? The business has to insure not only its vehicles but also its customer’s vehicles. Do you think the business owner can afford the premiums to cover you even if the insurance will accept you? Good luck. Is this your second or third conviction? If so, I hope you have enough vacation time saved up to cover your jail time or if you have a good attorney, your community service. Do you like jewelry? Good! In some municipalities and states you may be wearing a nice little ankle bracelet if you are a repeat offender. So now, all you have to worry about is how to pay the mortgage, feed the kids. Of course you may want to save a few coins back for your future divorce. Don’t think it can happen? Think again.

I have a couple of cops in my family and believe me, they as well as their fellow officers are watching for you and me. I borrowed their experience to check out some of the urban legends I have heard on ways to avoid a D.W.I. conviction. They only offered one sure fire bit of advice—don’t drive impaired. I did learn you will reach your highest b.a.c. about an hour AFTER you stop drinking. Drinking coffee does one thing for you—it makes you an alert drunk. A cold shower makes you a cold, wet drunk. Eating after drinking actually slows down the processing of alcohol. Only one thing gets alcohol out of your system …time. It takes approximately one hour of time to process 1 ounce of alcohol. Did you go to bed at 4 a.m. with a .22 b.a.c. only to get up for work at 7 a.m.? Surprise! You’re still legally drunk. Three hours of sleep was not enough time to eliminate that amount of alcohol from your system. Remember this: One shot equals one beer or one glass of wine. Pound 10 or 12 shots, you just drank a 12 pack.

OK, now I am gonna climb off my soapbox. If any of this pissed you off or made you a little uncomfortable, maybe you need to take a look in the mirror—I did. I really hope the results of reading this made you think. Am I personally going to quit drinking? No. Do I think you should? That’s none of my business. I just want you to educate and protect yourselves as well as others. I don’t like funerals and I don’t like to see friends endure hardships. Below is a list of web sites you can check out if you choose. I especially recommend the last link; it contains a lot of myths on alcohol and important info on the flaws of breathalyzers in general. Drink responsibly and make it home to those you love. Ten years is a long, long time but not long enough to wash somebody else’s blood off your hands.

These are my opinions alone; they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Cycle Connections or any of its staff. Please check your local ordinances as they vary greatly not only state to state but county to county and even city to city.

By Loney Wilcoxson

Editor's Note: In the Safe Riding section of our June 2004 issue we published an article entitled Think When You Drink, which includes some good tips on how to control your use of alcohol, how to control your riding, along with tips on how to step in and save the life of your riding buddies.