Riding a motorcycle demands your full attention. Responsible riders pay attention to the riding environment, identify potential hazards, look for escape routes and make good decisions.
Your ability to trust your judgment and to be aware of changing conditions or potential hazards is influenced by how mentally fit and alert you are.
Alcohol is a major contributor to motorcycle crashes, particularly fatal crashes. Studies show that, in Oregon, 46% of all riders killed in motorcycle crashes during 2021 had been drinking.2 Riding “under the influence” of alcohol or other drugs poses physical and legal hazards for every rider.
2. National Center for Statistics and Analysis (2023, June). Motorcycles: 2021 data (Traffic Safety Facts. Report No. DOT HS 813 112). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
It is important to understand the effect of alcohol, marijuana and other drugs to see that they don’t mix with riding. Alcohol and other drugs impair your:
Judgment – Alcohol and other impairing drugs affect those areas of your brain that control judgment. You may not be able to make good decisions about traffic conditions or how you can protect yourself.
Vision – Alcohol and certain types of drugs can blur your vision, slow your ability to focus and cause double vision.
Reaction Time – Alcohol and other impairing drugs slow your ability to process information and impact your ability to react quickly to a situation.
Riding under the influence of alcohol or other drugs poses physical and legal hazards for every rider.
Don’t Drink and Ride
The safest and most responsible choice is to not drink and ride. Your ability to think clearly and ride safely is affected by as little as one drink. Once you start, your judgment is affected and your ability to say “no” gets weaker.
If you plan on drinking, leave your motorcycle at home and find other transportation so you won’t be tempted to ride impaired. Or, call ahead to where you plan on drinking and ask if there is a secure place for you to store your motorcycle overnight so you can find an alternative way home – such as a taxi or designated driver.
There are no shortcuts to removing alcohol from your body. None of the “remedies” you may have heard about – cold showers, hot coffee, or physical exercise – will remove alcohol faster. The only proven remedy to removing alcohol is time. Remember – your body can process about one drink an hour.
Other Impairing Drugs and Riding
Marijuana and other cannabis products slow your reaction time, interfere with your concentration, impact your perception of time and distance and affect your ability to ride safely. Its negative effects are most evident when individuals handling multiple tasks are confronted with something unexpected. Your response and performance at these times need to be quick and accurate.
Many prescription, over-the-counter and illegal drugs may also affect your ability to ride safely. If you are not sure if it is safe to take a drug and ride, ask your doctor or pharmacist about any side effects.
Never drink alcohol while you are taking other drugs. These drugs could multiply the effects of alcohol or have additional effects of their own. These effects not only reduce your ability to operate your motorcycle, but could cause serious health problems, even death.
Combining drinking and drug use with the operation of a motor vehicle can have fatal consequences. Motorcyclists are more likely than automobile drivers to be killed or severely injured in crashes.
A distraction is anything that takes your attention away from riding. Rider distractions may occur anytime and anywhere. Distracted riding can cause collisions, resulting in injury, death or property damage. Taking your eyes off the road or hands off the motorcycle presents obvious riding risks. Mental activities that take your mind away from riding are just as dangerous. You must maintain your attention on the riding task. You are completely and solely responsible for operating your motorcycle in a safe manner.
There are many health conditions, even minor issues, that can affect your riding. Check with your doctor if a health condition could interfere with you operating a motorcycle.
Emotions can interfere with your ability to think, create mental distractions, increase risk-taking, create a lack of attention and interrupt your ability to process information. You may not be able to give all your attention to operating a motorcycle if you are overly worried, excited, afraid, angry or depressed.
Fatigue can affect your control of the motorcycle. To minimize potential for fatigue, be sure to be properly rested and take frequent rest breaks when riding long distances. Experienced riders seldom try to ride more than about six hours a day.
Riding a motorcycle requires a great amount of mental alertness and physical skill. Sometimes changes in your environment can affect your visibility. Physical changes may occur as well, such as rain or wind, which may affect your riding performance. Responsible riders know how to adjust or compensate for factors that affect rider performance.
In cold weather riding, protect yourself by wearing proper protective gear like a windproof jacket and insulated layers of clothing. An additional windproof outer layer can prevent cold air from reaching the skin.
Cold weather can significantly impact your reaction time. To compensate for the slower reaction time, reduce your speed and increase your following distance and space on your sides.
Riding for long periods in cold weather may lower your body temperature and cause hypothermia.
Symptoms of hypothermia may include:
- Deterioration in physical coordination.
- Irrational, confused behavior.
- Sluggish movement.
- Muscle tension.
- Shallow, slow breathing.
If a chill is experienced, leave the roadway at your first opportunity and find shelter. Drink warm liquids, do some exercise to warm yourself and change out of wet clothes.
Extreme Hot Weather
In extreme hot weather, wear protective gear that breathes. It is important to wear a jacket and long pants to protect you in a collision and to prevent dehydration. Drink plenty of water, stop and remove unnecessary heavy clothing and dry your hands if they become slippery due to perspiration.
Symptoms of heat stroke may include:
- Throbbing headache.
- Feeling dizzy or light-headed.
- Muscle weakness or cramps.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Rapid heartbeat, which may be strong or weak.
- Rapid, shallow breathing.
Test Your Knowledge
1. What is the only proven remedy to remove alcohol from your body?
A. Hot coffee.
C. Physical exercise.
2. Prescription drugs:
A. Always help you ride safer.
B. Are safe to use while riding.
C. Can affect your ability to ride safely.
3. To compensate for the slower reaction time in very cold weather, you should:
A. Ride close to other vehicles.
B. Speed up.
C. Increase your following distance.