Bicycles, DUIs, and Accident Laws in Texas

Under current Texas laws, biking under the influence is not an explicit crime. Generally, you could take a bike out to a bar, have a few, and ride back without concern for legal repercussions. While a criminal DUI is unlikely (but possible), cyclists may still face legal liability if they cause an injurious bicycle accident while riding under the influence on a bicycle.

DUI Laws in Texas

Texas laws define DUI as having a BAC (blood alcohol content) of 0.08 or higher as an adult operating a motor vehicle, a watercraft, aircraft, an amusement ride, or a mobile amusement ride. Texas Penal Code Title 7 Chapter 32 defines a motor vehicle as, “a device in, on, or by which a person or property is or may be transported or drawn on a highway.” The law does not directly apply to bicyclists, but some prosecutors continue to argue the current definition of a motor vehicle might include a bicycle. Since the penal code is so vague regarding bicyclists, you may want to use caution before getting on a bicycle under the influence.

While a bicyclist may not receive a DUI for riding under the influence, the state may pursue charges of public intoxication. A person is guilty of public intoxication if he or she commits an act that could endanger another. Pedestrians, bicyclists, and others may face public intoxication charges for their reckless actions.

Legal Liability And “Bicycling Under the Influence”

At best, a prosecutor’s bicycle DUI case is weak considering current laws and legal precedents. However, bicyclists may want to consider more than criminal laws before riding under the influence. Civil laws are much more open to interpretation. If you act negligently on a bicycle, cause an accident, and injure another person, you may face liability for that individual’s injuries. Riding under the influence could also preclude you from securing damages in a personal injury claim.

Understanding Negligence and Bicycling

Under the basic concept of personal injury law, every person is responsible for acting reasonably around others. While breaking a law may coincide with personal injury claims, many claims do not include criminal acts at all. For example, driving while drowsy is not against the law, but drivers who do so may face liability in a civil claim. Similarly, bicycling under the influence is not against the law per se, but choosing to bicycle under the influence may constitute an act of negligence.

If you bicycle under the influence, remember your duty of care to others. Engaging in negligent bicycling behaviors such as riding without a helmet, riding while intoxicated, or failing to follow the rules of the road could prevent you from recovering compensation and increase your legal liability for others’ injuries under the law.

Safe Bicycling in Texas

To avoid legal and criminal liability, bicyclists should always adhere to the state’s transportation code for bicycle operation:

  • Ride as close to the right side of the road as possible. Bicyclists who ride on roadways should strive to ride as close to the right edge of the road as safely possible, unless the bicyclist is passing a vehicle, turning left, avoiding an obstacle, or riding in a lane too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to share.
  • Maintain your bicycle. Use appropriate reflectors, lights, brakes, and other safety equipment to reduce the risk of a visibility-related incident or a bicycle malfunctioning incident.
  • Do not bicycle-pool.  Unless you ride a tandem bicycle, avoid carrying passengers on your handlebar or any attached sled or toy vehicle.

Bicycling and Common Sense

The most important rule of thumb for riding a bicycle in Texas is to use common sense. If drinking might put your life or another’s in danger, avoid it. Call for a Lyft and pick up your bicycle the next day. Bicycling under the influence is a dangerous activity that could lead to criminal and civil liability.