By Rob Beswick, resident journalist

Never mix your riding with drink or drugs.

Drinking and riding – and the day after

Christmas is a time to celebrate, to meet up with friends and let your hair down – and often means enjoying a drink or two. Why not; you deserve it…

But while you may be tempted to have a drink, don’t think that you can party and use your scooter, moped or motorbike to get you home afterwards. Even one drink will massively impair your balance, dexterity and fine motor skills – the very skills you need to ride and control your bike safely.

Think about the effect alcohol has on you when you’re in the pub or at home, and then think about feeling like that while riding. Alcohol makes our physical responses sluggish and clumsy – not a great recipe for handling a bike, is it?

It also deadens the reflexes on which riders rely to avoid dangers on the road, as well as making us more reckless and likely to take risks.

Just one drink will damage your ability to control your bike and will put you – and others – in harm’s way. It’s not worth it, so don’t risk it. You’re risking serious injury or death for you and other road users.

And if you do drink and are caught riding while over the allowed alcohol limit (80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood), you’ll lose your licence for at least a year, and pay a heavy fine too.

Remember, you’ll also have to retake all those riding tests and exams again to get your licence back. It’s expensive and time-consuming. Do you want to go through all that again?

If you’re going out on your bike, don’t risk it. Better to stick to non-alcoholic drinks until the time comes when you can party without having to ride home afterwards.

Better still, leave the bike at home and use public transport.

A word of warning, though, if you do go out and have a heavy night on the tiles, watch out for the morning after. Every Christmas the police catch thousands of riders and drivers on their way into work in the morning after drinking the night before, and who are over the alcohol limit.

Alcohol stays in your system for a long time after you’ve drunk it and you could still be feeling the effects of last night well into the afternoon the next day. Each pint of strong beer or cider can take as long as three hours per pint to leave your system after you’ve finished drinking, while a double shot of vodka or gin will take two hours to leave.

In other words, if you have five pints of strong lager in the evening, you shouldn’t ride for at least 15 hours after your last drink.

That means if you stop drinking at 11pm, you probably aren’t safe to ride until after 2pm the next day.

If you were to hop on your bike at 7.30am for your ride into work you will be miles over the limit. You might feel fine but those skills you need to ride safely will still be heavily impaired, so don’t risk it. It’s the same punishment the morning after as it is on the night itself: an automatic ban, heavy fine – and retaking those riding tests!

Drugs and riding

Riding a motorcycle, moped or scooter while under the influence of any drugs is a dreadful idea. Riders are called upon to continually make detailed assessments of the road ahead, make split-second decisions that require precise rider control and supreme balance, and to have a great awareness of other road users around them if they are to get home safely.

That’s a list of requirements that is impossible to achieve if you have recreational drugs in your system.

The top two most used recreational drugs in the UK, cannabis and cocaine, both have appalling effects on riders, affecting your brain’s ability to process information and respond quickly to situations on the road, as well as your body’s ability to balance and control your bike.  The effects are deadly when combined with riding a motorbike.

Cannabis’ effects on the body are well known. It slows down reaction times and alters our perception of time, space and speed. It also affects our concentration and co-ordination.

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that reduces our ability to make good decisions, destroys the fine motor skills we need to control the bike, impairs balance and makes us feel reckless. It also impairs our judgement of distances and time. In other words, what looks like a safe spot to turn quickly becomes a crash waiting to happen.

Both drugs also make focusing difficult and slows down your reaction timepreventing you from reacting to potential hazards in a timely manner.

All in all, it’s a deadly cocktail of problems that can only spell trouble for anyone riding a motorbike or scooter.

Fancy riding your bike through busy streets with all those challenges?

Don’t ride your bike if you’ve taken drugs. Not only is it unsafe and puts you and others at risk, just as with alcohol, riders caught under the influence of drugs will receive the same penalties as for drink-riding: you will be banned for at least a year and fined heavily.

And don’t think you won’t get caught. Police now use roadside drug testing kits in the same way they use breathalysers, and will test any rider they believe to be under the influence of drugs.

Rob Beswick is a freelance journalist with a special interest in motoring and road safety issues, particularly rider and driver training and testing.
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