Bicycle Accident Statistics in Missouri

Did you know that there are more bicycles operated in the world each year (1.4 billion) than there are automobiles (400 million)?  Since 2005, there have been more bicycles sold each year than cars. Yes, the bicycle is the most popular and most used vehicle in the world. bicycle

Did you know that bicycling is the second most popular recreational activity in the United States?  In terms of recreation, the only thing more popular than bicycling is walking. The New York Times has described bicycling as “the new golf.”  In fact, there are more bicyclists in the United States than golfers, skiers, and tennis players combined. Bicycling has become the most popular health and fitness activity for professionals over the age of 40.

Did you know that there are over 2 million bicyclists in Missouri alone?  There are more than 100 bicycle shops in Missouri, with bicycle sales reaching $220 million a year.  Missourians take about 20 million bicycle trips each year.

Did you know that in addition to local bicyclists, Missouri hosts more than 1.6 million visitors each year (4.3% of all Missouri tourists) who bicycle or hike the many scenic bike trails available in Missouri?  Every year, more than half a million tourists from every state in the nation and many foreign countries visit Missouri to ride the 240-mile Katy Trail—one of the most historic bike trails in the country.

Indeed, bicycling in Missouri has become one of the most popular tourist activities in the state.  However—

Did you know that bicycling while intoxicated can be equally as dangerous as driving a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol?  In many states, bicycling under the influence can result in criminal “D.W.I.” (driving while intoxicated) charges and other penalties.

What Is the Effect of Bicycling While Intoxicated?

Alcohol can affect every person differently. However, for many bicyclists, consuming one, single drink of alcohol can impair reaction time, judgment, muscle coordination, and vision.  Because of this, bicyclists are 6 times more likely to be injured in an accident after consuming a single drink of alcohol. Bicyclists whose blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeds the legal limit of 0.08% increase their risk of injury in an accident by 2,000 percent.  Nearly 25% of all bicycling accidents resulting in a fatality involved a cyclist who was intoxicated.

According to data provided by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System and published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, bicycle accident victims who are intoxicated typically suffer more serious injuries than other bicyclists. In one study of more than 480,000 injured bicyclists seen in hospital emergency rooms, more than 120,000 cyclists had alcohol in their system. More than 11,000 cyclists were intoxicated from drug use at the time of their accident. Of those injured, 22% suffered fractured bones, 19% suffered some form of internal organ injury, and 33% of the cyclists had to be admitted to the hospital.   

When someone driving a motor vehicle is intoxicated, they can be arrested for driving while intoxicated (D.W.I.) and suffer a host of criminal penalties.  Bicycling while intoxicated can be just as dangerous to other persons driving vehicles on the road as it is for the intoxicated bicyclist. For this reason, many states apply D.W.I. laws to bicyclists who ride while intoxicated.  

Does the "D.W.I." Law in Missouri Apply to Intoxicated Bicyclists?

Although operating a bicycle while intoxicated is dangerous to the bicyclist, other drivers on the road, and pedestrians, the criminal D.W.I. laws in Missouri do not apply to intoxicated bicyclists. 

Under Missouri law, there are two bodies of law that address the issue of driving while intoxicated. One body of law (Chapter 577 of the Missouri Statutes) deals with the criminal penalties for certain public safety offenses, including:

  • Driving while intoxicated
  • Driving with excessive blood alcohol content

The other body of law that deals with driving while intoxicated is Chapter 302, which provides for the administrative suspension or revocation of a driver’s license for certain types of misconduct.

In many states, either of these bodies of law could apply to bicyclists who ride while intoxicated.  However, Missouri does not apply these laws to bicyclists.

Why the Missouri D.W.I Law (Chapter 577) Does Not Apply to Bicyclists

Section 577.010 (Driving while intoxicated) provides that “A person commits the offense of driving while intoxicated if he or she operates a vehicle while in an intoxicated condition.”  “Intoxicated” or “intoxicated condition” is defined as being “under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or drug, or any combination thereof.”

Section 577.012 (Driving with excessive blood alcohol content) provides that “A person commits the offense of driving with excessive blood alcohol content if such person operates . . . [a] vehicle while having [0.08%] of alcohol in his or her blood. . . .”

Chapter 577 does not define the term “vehicle” for purposes of either of these provisions. However, other sections of Missouri law dealing with bicycle regulations define a “bicycle” as any vehicle “propelled solely by human power upon which a person may ride.” This means that a bicycle is not motorized. And when applying the D.W.I. law in Missouri, courts consistently have limited its application only to motorized vehicles.

Why Missouri's "Suspended License" Law (Chapter 302) Does Not Apply to Bicyclists

Intoxicated drivers of a motorized vehicle may suffer criminal penalties under the Missouri D.W.I. laws. However, as described above, these laws do not apply to bicyclists. 

In addition to criminal penalties, certain offenders may be subject to a revoked or suspended driver’s license if they violate public safety laws by being intoxicated. Like the D.W.I. laws, however, these public safety laws do not apply to bicyclists in Missouri.

Section 302.505 (Determination by department to suspend or revoke license) provides that the Department of Revenue shall suspend or revoke the license of any person who operates a “motor vehicle” and who:

  • Drives with a BAC above the legal limit of .08%;
  • Is under 21 years of age and violates §§ 577.010 or 577.012; or
  • Violates a traffic offense with a BAC of .02%.

However, under this body of law, Missouri defines a “motor vehicle” as “any self-propelled vehicle not operated exclusively upon tracks except motorized bicycles . . . and electric bicycles . . . .” So, like the criminal provisions, this provision does not consider a bicycle to be a “motor vehicle.” In addition, in defining the term “Vehicle” for purposes of suspending or revoking a driver’s license because of intoxication, this body of law specifically excludes bicycles by excluding any vehicle propelled by human power.

So, although Missouri courts have applied the D.W.I. and public safety laws to persons who were intoxicated while driving automobiles, motorcycles, commercial vehicles, golf carts, and any qualified motorized vehicle, neither law applies to persons intoxicated while riding a bicycle.

Although the D.W.I. and public safety laws do not apply to intoxicated bicyclists, there may be other state or local laws that may apply, such as public intoxication or disturbance laws. More importantly, one body of law that always applies is the laws of physics. Bicycling while intoxicated is dangerous and increases your likelihood of injury or death. You should never ride your bicycle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

Riding a Bicycle While Intoxicated Is Always Dangerous 

Riding a bicycle while intoxicated may not be illegal in missouri, but it is always dangerous and may lead to serious injuries or death.

Unlike many states, Missouri does not criminalize riding a bicycle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Nevertheless, doing so is dangerous and can lead to serious injury or death. If you were involved in any kind of bicycle accident and you or someone else suffered injuries as a result, you should seek legal advice. The laws related to bicycles in Missouri are complex and may be relevant to your bicycle accident, especially with respect to:

Michael Foster
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Kansas City Personal Injury Attorney