Alcohol and cycling

Alcohol and cycling

For motor vehicles, a so-called danger limit of 0.5 per mille applies, commonly known as the so-called per mille limit. From this blood alcohol level onwards, it is likely that a driver is no longer capable of driving his or her vehicle in a roadworthy manner.

Who is on the road with this promille value with the car, makes itself not yet punishable. However, he commits a misdemeanor according to § 24a Road Traffic Act, which can be punished with a fine. For novice drivers with a probationary driving license, there is even an alcohol ban according to § 24c Road Traffic Act.

There is no such administrative offence limit for cyclists, as cycling is considerably less dangerous than driving a motor vehicle. Efforts in the direction to determine also for cyclists a danger border, could not become generally accepted so far. Therefore it is quite true that cyclists can allow themselves a few "drops of alcohol" more than car drivers.

2. Criminal drunk driving

But even as a cyclist there is too much alcohol, so that alcohol behind the handlebars can even constitute a criminal offense.

When driving under the influence of alcohol is punishable is regulated in § 316 StGB. Driving under the influence of alcohol is punishable if the driver is no longer able to drive the vehicle safely. This applies to all vehicles, so that not only motor vehicles are meant, but also bicycles.

The blood alcohol limit for impaired driving is not regulated by law, but is assessed by case law. While motorists are considered "absolutely" unfit to drive from a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 1.1 per mille, cyclists are only absolutely unfit to drive at 1.6 per mille. This figure is made up of a basic value of 1.5 per mille and a safety margin of 0.1 per mille for any measurement inaccuracies.

A decision of the Federal Court of Justice from 1986 is decisive for the determination of this blood alcohol level limit (BGH, decision from 17.07.1986, 4 StR 543/85). For the first time, the Federal Court of Justice also set a limit for absolute driving incapacity for cyclists, namely at 1.7 per mille. This value has since been reduced by 0.1 per mille only to the extent that the safety margin was reduced from 0.2 to 0.1 at the beginning of the 1990s, as measurement methods have improved and measurement results are more accurate. However, the basic value of 1.5 per mille has remained unchanged since 1986.

This alcohol limit is not expected to change in the future. Corresponding consultations of the transport ministers of the federal states about a lowering of this alcohol limit and recommendations to the Federal Ministry of Transport to review the applicable laws have not led to any changes, even in recent times. In Germany, therefore, a cyclist is no longer considered unfit to ride until his blood alcohol level reaches 1.6 per mille – regardless of whether or not this poses a danger to other people or property. After reaching this level, the cyclist is irrefutably presumed to be unfit to drive.

Anyone with a blood alcohol level of 1.6 per mille or more will be fined – usually in the amount of one month's net salary – 3 points in Flensburg and ordered to undergo a so-called medical-psychological examination, or MPU for short, better known as an "idiot test". If this is not passed, even the loss of driving license threatens. In view of these potentially significant consequences, it should be clear that alcohol is not to be trifled with when riding a bicycle either.

How many glasses of beer are too much?
But when is it enough? The question of how much beer or wine it is better to leave the car or bicycle behind cannot be answered in a general way, but depends on the individual's physical condition.

The alcohol content in a person's blood is usually stated and calculated in per mille and can be measured in the breath or blood. The Federal Center for Health Education has developed a promille calculator with which one can determine one's personal promille values.

3. Consequences threaten already from 0.3 per mille

What few cyclists know is that both car drivers and cyclists are considered relatively unfit to drive if their blood alcohol level exceeds 0.3 per mille. Anyone who drives with less than the absolute limit, but is conspicuous due to signs of drunkenness, is liable to prosecution. Typical alcohol-related driving errors such as driving in serpentine lines, slowed reactions such as using the blinker too late or driving the wrong way down one-way streets can also occur without being under the influence of alcohol. Who behaves however traffic conspicuously and is caught thereby drunkenly, risks already with quite small per mille values a charge.

If, in addition, an accident is caused in which the life of another person or foreign property of significant value is endangered, there is the threat of a fine or even imprisonment under § 315c of the Criminal Code.

4. No liability protection in case of negligent accident causation

It should also be borne in mind that an intoxicated cyclist who has been involved in an accident is usually at least partially to blame in court.
It is even worse for those who are found to have acted negligently or even intentionally: In these cases, the private liability insurance is released from the obligation to pay benefits, so that the cyclist must pay for all damages and compensation for pain and suffering themselves. If a "drunken" bike ride should lead to a criminal investigation and the loss of the driver's license and the described liability consequences, you should immediately call in a lawyer who specializes in this area of law.

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