Can I claim for a cycle injury when drunk?
Studies show that riding a bicycle while drunk can slow reaction times, reduce coordination and seriously impair your ability to cycle safely.
Is it illegal to ride a bike while "under the influence?"
Drink-cycling and the law
Under Section 30 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, it is against the law for a cyclist to ride a bike while "unfit to ride through drink or drugs." This is usually the case when a cyclist is sufficiently intoxicated that he does not have proper control of his bike.
Rule 68 of the Highway Code goes one step further. As well as making it an offence to "ride when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including medicine," the Code also specifies that a cyclist must not ride carelessly, dangerously or inconsiderately. These are all things that an inebriated cyclist is likely to do, even at low concentrations of alcohol.
How much alcohol is too much alcohol?
Neither the Road Traffic Act nor the Highway Code specify exactly how much alcohol is permissible for a cyclist. Consequently, it can be difficult for an individual cyclist to determine how many units of alcohol he can consume before he loses his ability to ride a bike safely. Is one glass of wine too much?
If a police officer suspects that you have been drinking, he can ask you to provide a blood, breath or urine sample. However, the police cannot force you to provide a specimen. Plus, it is difficult to know how useful a sample would be, given that there are no legal limits for drunk cycling as there are for drunk driving.
If you refuse a sobriety test, the police are likely to rely on their assessment of your condition to decide what action to take. This might range from words of caution to prosecution, depending on the individual circumstances.
If your cycling behaviour was compromised, the police will determine whether you should be charged with a separate offence. For example, a cyclist weaving in and out of traffic could be charged with careless cycling as well as cycling under the influence.
If the drunk cycling charge could not be proven, the Magistrates' Court could still find the cyclist guilty of careless cycling and impose a fine.
What are the penalties for drunk cycling?
Cyclists prosecuted for riding while under the influence face fines of up to £2,500.
The cyclist may also face fines and/or imprisonment for the other road traffic offences he commits while intoxicated. For example, failing to stop at a red light is usually penalised with an on-the-spot fine of £30.
Causing physical injuries to another person while cycling could be prosecuted as "wanton and furious cycling" under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. This carries a maximum jail sentence of two years.
Could I lose my driving licence?
A cyclist's driving licence will not be endorsed if he is convicted of drunk cycling or any other cycling offence.
However, under the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000, the Court may disqualify a cyclist from driving a car for such period as it thinks fit.
Regardless of penalties, research suggests that intoxicated cyclists are ten times more likely to be injured in a cycling accident than sober cyclists. The safest action is to not drink alcohol at all before cycling.
Can you make a claim if involved in an accident when cycling drunk?
Fundamentally, none of the above will automatically deny you of your right to compensation if you are injured in a collision with another road user, as a result of that road user's negligence.
However, the compensation you actually receive may be reduced, as a result of the principle of 'contributory negligence'. This means that if you contributed to the accident or your injury, the Court will assess the extent to which they believe your actions affected the accident, and will reduce your compensation by that amount.
If, for example, a car ran a red light and hit you, but it is determined that if you had not been drunk you may have sustained less serious injuries, the Court may reduce your compensation by 25% or 50%, depending on the degree to which your condition was judged to have contributed to your injury.