Riding an E-Bike home after a heavy night out is something many consider instead of getting behind the wheel of a car. However, DUI laws for E-Bikes are a little more complicated than most think.
Legal Disclaimer: We are not giving legal advice and you shouldn’t take this as the law. This is just a collection and summation based on what we interpret from local laws. We aim to keep it up to date but can’t guarantee anything.
Check your local laws before riding and contact a local lawyer for clarification or in the case of an accident.
There are many reasons why you might want to ride an E-Bike after a drink. Maybe it’s a countryside ride with a quick stop off at the local, or a late-night decision to try a new rental E-Bike Service.
While it might not be as dangerous as driving a car it’s still not a good idea. We’ve seen normal bicycle crashes caused by drinking that turned out seriously badly. Adding extra speed can end up in disaster.
Can You Get A DUI On An Electric Bike?
Yes, it’s possible to be charged with a DUI or DWI while riding an Electric Bike. In most US states you can be stopped or pulled over, be subjected to tests, and be charged if you are found to be over limits.
There is some disagreement and variation between areas as to if an Electric Bike counts as a “motor vehicle” for DUI purposes. In some places, it’s clear cut that DUIs apply to any type of motor vehicle and only motor vehicles.
In other areas, it doesn’t matter if it’s a motor vehicle and it’s the use and danger that counts. In some jurisdictions, E-Bikes are specifically not motor vehicles and can’t be treated as such.
With all this said it’s always worth assuming that you shouldn’t drink and ride, even if you might get away with it. At the end of the day, it’s not worth it. Maybe even consider an E-Bike with walk mode instead of riding.
What Does DUI/DWI Mean?
DUI means “Driving Under the Influence” and generally refers to driving over a certain Blood Alcohol Content (referred to as BAC) level. Sometimes it only applies if you are over a certain BAC, sometimes it applies if any alcohol is detected at all for minors.
DWI means “Driving While Impaired” and sometimes refers to driving under the influence of illegal drugs, or where legal prescription drugs were taken illegally or irresponsibly. They tend to have different charges, legal/license consequences, and fines.
Sometimes one applies over a certain BAC (i.e. DWI over 0.08, DWI over 0.15) and sometimes they are interchangeable. We’re using the terms interchangeably unless specifically mentioned otherwise.
DUI Differences Between E-Bikes + Push Bikes
In most places, there are generally more lenient laws for riding a bicycle while drunk vs a car. You are also less likely to be pulled over or charged as long as you meet a sympathetic officer. Most would prefer you on a 30 lb bike over a 3,000 lb sedan.
It might seem like common sense that as long as you aren’t weaving in traffic or clearly unable to control the bike, biking home a little tipsy can be argued to be fairly safe. Please don’t take this as us arguing that it is safe.
However, adding a powered motor and a throttle means you could be blind drunk, unable to pedal, but still able to get up to 28 mph. While some places treat E-Bikes exactly the same as standard bicycles legally – some don’t.
There’s also an argument to say that driving an E-Bike with a throttle might make it easier to control than having to pedal a bike. It’s anecdotal and hasn’t been studied though. If you can get a DUI on an E-Bike can depend on how convincing your lawyer’s arguments are.
It’s worth thinking about the difference that a police officer, and potentially a judge and jury, will see. The public perception of E-Bikes is very different from a pushbike, so expect harsher sentencing within the same set of guidelines for punishment.
Can You Ride An Electric Bike While Disqualified From Driving?
In many places, you can ride an E-Bike while disqualified. In areas where an Electric Bike requires a driving license and registration, this isn’t the case.
Some places consider a certain Class of E-Bike a standard bike that doesn’t need registration, with Class 3 E-Bikes (for example) needing to be registered. Therefore, you can’t drive a Class 3 E-Bike if it needs registration. This varies by state and country.
Can You Get Penalty Points For Riding An E-Bike Drunk?
In some areas when you are charged with a DUI / DWI on an Electric Bike, you get the same penalty points as if you were driving a car. So those points can accrue to your driving license and get you banned from driving.
As an example, Florida does count E-Bike DUI points towards losing your license. In Florida, E-Bikes are now also classed as being bicycles, not motorized vehicles anymore. So you could be in the position of being banned from driving but still get points from a DUI on an E-Bike.
Important – E-Bike DUI Laws Are New + Untested
Electric Bikes laws are getting updated around the world quite rapidly. As many are so new there will always be new legal cases that end up either a) testing the boundaries of current law, ending up in legal clarifications, and b) cases being tried that determine future case arguments.
Put simply: You may find yourself getting charged when you think you are legally fine.
Whether or not you can get a DUI on an Electric Bike depends very much on the people who uphold the law. You may also find judges or officers making examples of E-Bike riders because of headlines, local pressure, or prejudice.
E-Bike Crashes Caused By Drinking
We love E-Bikes and think they’re overall a very safe, clean, and healthy way to get around. It would still be irresponsible to say they can’t cause accidents or be dangerous.
You might be less likely to cause accidents and those accidents be less serious than a car – but that doesn’t mean they don’t happen. E-Bikes have directly caused at least one death as well as caused road accidents because of poor driving.
A 1994 study found that of 1,711 death of cyclists in the US (not on E-Bikes) 32% had been drinking and 23% would have been “legally intoxicated”. This included people under the legal drinking age.
Another small study from Switzerland of 23 Electric Bike accidents found 8.7% (2) were caused directly by “alcohol intoxication”.
A recent study compared accidents between pedal bikes, Electric Bikes, and Electric Scooters. The study found E-Bike accidents “more than three times more likely to involve a collision with a pedestrian than either pedal bicycles or powered scooters“, and “more likely to suffer internal injuries and require hospital admission“.
Essentially crashes on E-Bikes are more likely if you are drinking and have more severe physical consequences than on bicycles.
Wear A Helmet
If you read all of that and still don’t have a helmet: now’s the time. There is a new safety standard for E-Bike Helmets called NTA 8776. It’s rated to withstand bigger impacts at higher speeds than a normal bicycle helmet, though less bulky than a full motorbike helmet.
Read our complete guide to the Best E-Bike Helmets
Death Caused By E-Bike
We can only find one case where an E-Bike was directly involved in the death of someone. The rider had modified their E-Bike to go faster than the local legal limit and was driving 10 mph over the street’s speed limit. This is not responsible and not common to all E-Bike riders.
However, the pedestrian stepped out into the road without looking when the biker and other traffic had the right of way. In this case tried in the UK the rider was found not guilty of “causing death by careless driving”.
Police Attitude to Electric Bikes
In some places like China or Amsterdam where bikes make up a big part of transport, E-Bike use seems like a logical, safe step forward. In other places where SUVs are seen as a God-given right – the attitude can be very different. See E-Bike Laws in Texas.
Some Police and forces have a forward-thinking attitude toward E-Bikers. Others like New York had been overly restrictive on E-Bikes but have recently changed things up to favor riders.
It’s worth taking into account local customs and attitudes before you consider riding an E-Bike after drinking. Some small towns’ social structure revolves around the pub, with one Irish county raising the drink driving limits to help out.
Could Electric Bikes be a safer alternative after a few drinks? It seems something worth considering where the alternative is a car.
E-Bike DUI Lawyers
It’s definitely worth lawyering up if you are charged with a DUI or DWI on an E-Bike. It could be you were pulled over by an overeager cop looking to fill quotas when you weren’t causing an issue.
It could be that you were hit by a driver not paying any attention. They could then argue that the E-Bike’s added speed meant they wouldn’t have been able to stop anyway – even if it was completely their fault.
E-Bike laws are new and few cases have been tried, you’ll want to give yourself the best chances. An experienced and dedicated E-Bike or bicycle lawyer will help you immensely.