The Danger of Driving Any Vehicle Under the Influence; Bikes, Scooters, Even Wheelchairs

Parked E-Scooter

Thankfully, it seems that more and more Texas drivers are getting the idea about drinking and driving. People seem more aware than ever of the dangers of drinking and driving. Some of the credit can go to ride-sharing companies like Lyft and Uber, who have made it easier to get a ride home if you’ve had a few too many and you want to save the lives of other drivers and pedestrians on Texas roads.

However, many Texans are apparently are not getting the message and are still driving under the influence. In 2016, the last year where full data is available, 987 Texans lost their lives to drunk driving. In all, there were 17,434 DUI-related crashes, with San Antonio having the most of any city in Texas, with 1,845. This, despite the fact that the number of DUI crashes has been dropping slightly in recent years.

Trying to Avoid a DUI Riding a Scooter – Does It Work?

Some Texans are trying to be creative, which means they are trying to avoid driving a car or truck to get out of a DUI. For example, with the proliferation of bike sharing and dockless scooter rentals in cities all over Texas, a new question has cropped up. Is it possible to legally ride a rented bicycle or drive an electronic scooter while under the influence? While each city in Texas is setting its own rules for these rented bikes and scooters, the easy answer is no. On Texas roads, it almost doesn’t matter what you drive; if you’re too impaired to drive it, you can expect to get a DUI or something similar

It may be tempting to grab that rental bike or a Bird or Lime rental scooter sitting just outside the Texas bar where you’ve been drinking, but you should probably resist that temptation. Texas has a few very distinct laws regarding what constitutes a motor vehicle, and there is a definition of “motor-assisted scooter” in Texas law. A motor-assisted scooter is a self-propelled device that has:

  • At least two wheels on the ground while riding;
  • An electric or gasoline motor that doesn’t exceed 40cc;
  • A deck upon which a driver can stand or sit while riding;
  • A working braking system;
  • The option for human-powered operation.

If the scooter has one or more of these options, you cannot operate that vehicle while under the influence. And while there isn’t a specific DUI law regarding scooters or other small vehicles, you can still be tried for DUI and have your license suspended. Other factors may actually exacerbate the problem. For example, if you’re not wearing a helmet, that could be another violation. If you were riding on the sidewalk because you thought that would keep you out of trouble, think again; another violation. Being drunk in public may be another violation.

You Can Even get a DUI in a Wheelchair

The fact of the matter is, any vehicle you choose to drive on a public road while intoxicated can end up costing you. That includes a scooter, a boat, or a bicycle, or a riding lawnmower, or even – and this is not a joke – a wheelchair.

Yes, that’s right. There have been a number of cases nationwide in which a person in a wheelchair has been stopped in their wheelchair and determined by police to be operating under the influence. In Ohio, a 44-year-old disabled man was stopped after police found him swerving in his wheelchair and he was charged with an OVI (operating a vehicle under the influence). Also in Ohio, a 55-year-old man got his seventh DUI when he was stopped while riding a stolen motorized wheelchair and his Blood-Alcohol Content (BAC) was found to be more than three times the legal limit. In Pennsylvania, a wheelchair-bound woman was charged with a DUI after she was found riding around her trailer park at 4 a.m. and she was convicted of DUI.

Like many states, Texas has a relatively broad definition of “driving” under the influence, which means you can get a DUI as long as you are in “physical control” of virtually any vehicle and you are too impaired to be able to operate that vehicle safely. That means being in control of virtually any vehicle while you are drunk can lead to a DUI and a lot of problems going forward. In other words, if you think you’re avoiding trouble by choosing to ride a scooter that just happens to be sitting there outside the bar, or you are in a wheelchair, you might want to think again and make arrangements to have someone else drive you home, or get a room at a local hotel. Keep yourself and everyone else on the road safe and don’t try to drive anything while under the influence.

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