Stephen Hasner | Georgia Law | May 18, 2021
Bicycles are popular throughout Atlanta. They are great for getting through traffic, saving money on fuel costs, and sightseeing. However, riders need to be aware that many of the same laws applicable to motorists also apply to bicyclists. For example, it may be difficult to believe, but you can be arrested in Atlanta for DUI while riding a bicycle.
Bicycles are Vehicles Under Georgia Vehicle Laws
Georgia Code §40-6-291 states that bicycles are vehicles for the purposes of the Uniform Rules of the Road. Therefore, bicyclists are subject to most of the same traffic laws as motorists. They must obey traffic signs, signal when turning, and maintain a safe following distance.
Under §40-6-391, the code states that a person shall not drive or be in physical control of a moving “vehicle” while under the influence of alcohol. Georgia treats bicycles as vehicles, so a person can be stopped and arrested for DUI while on a bicycle.
If the rider is convicted of DUI while bicycling, they could face the same penalties as a motorist who is convicted for driving under the influence.
It is important to remember that DUI includes alcohol and drugs. Therefore, if you are under the influence of drugs, you could also be arrested and convicted of DUI while riding a bicycle.
Cycling under the influence can result in fines, jail time, probation, and other penalties. Most bicycling DUI charges are misdemeanors. However, if there are aggravating circumstances, or you have been charged with DUI in the past, you could face a more serious criminal charge.
A bicycle DUI will likely go on your criminal record. A criminal record could have long-lasting consequences for your education and career. In some cases, a criminal record could impact where you live and family court matters. As with any criminal charges, you should seek legal advice before making any decisions.
Civil Penalties for Cycling Under the Influence
If you ride your bicycle under the influence of alcohol, you could face civil penalties if you cause a DUI accident. The damages caused by the traffic accident may be your responsibility because you caused the crash. The accident victims could sue you to recover compensation for their injuries, economic losses, and other damages.
Damages that could be included in a personal injury claim are:
- The cost of diagnosing and treating physical injuries and psychological injuries
- The loss of salaries, wages, bonuses, commissions, benefits, and other forms of income
- Decreases in future earnings and loss of future income
- Disabilities, scarring, impairments, and disfigurement
- Mental anguish and emotional distress
- Physical pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life and a decrease in quality of life
Your car insurance may not cover your bicycle accident. Therefore, you could be personally liable for the entire judgment. It is not worth the risk of injury and other consequences to ride a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
What Happens if a Drunk Bicyclist Is Hit by a Motor Vehicle?
Another consideration is how being under the influence could impact your bicycle accident claim if a driver hits you. Could your claim be denied or reduced because of comparative fault or comparative negligence? The insurance company and the defense team will likely argue that you are not entitled to full compensation for your damages because you contributed to the cause of your injuries.
They may argue that you were partially at fault for the crash because you were drunk. Had you not been drunk, you could have avoided the accident. If the defense attorney can convince a jury of this version of the facts, the jury may find that you are partially liable for the crash.
If so, your compensation will be reduced by your percentage of fault for the bicycle accident. In Georgia, if the percentage of fault is 50 percent or higher, you will receive no money for your damages.
Whenever you are involved in a bicycle accident, it is wise to talk to a bicycle accident attorney. The insurance company for the driver may try to use comparative fault and other tactics to reduce the value of your injury claim. Getting legal advice before you speak with the insurance company could help you avoid making a mistake that could hurt your case.