Alcohol, illegal drugs, medicines, injuries, tiredness and your mood can all affect the way you ride your motorbike. If you ever feel that you might not be able to ride safely, do not ride. Decide the best way to deal with the situation: you may need to delay your journey or find a different way to make your journey. If it’s a longer-term problem, you may have to stop riding altogether.
You must not drink and ride. Alcohol will seriously affect your judgement and ability to ride safely.
In 2011, 280 people were killed in drink-drive accidents and 1,290 people were seriously injured. In the same year, drivers aged between 20 and 24 failed more breath tests than any other age group (source: Dept for Transport/National Statistics).
The amount of alcohol (units) in different types of drink varies.You must not ride your motorbike if your breath alcohol is higher than 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres (which is the same as a blood alcohol level of 80 milligrammes per 100 millilitres). Riding with alcohol in your blood is extremely dangerous and carries serious penalties if you ride or attempt to ride while over the legal limit. You can find more information on penalties in The Highway Code (GOV.UK).
If you’re not sure whether you’re over the limit, do not ride.
It’s safest not to drink any alcohol before you ride. For more information on drinking and driving, see GOV.UK.
Any amount of alcohol can affect your judgement of speed, distance and risk; it can also make you sleepy. It takes just over an hour for your body to process a unit of alcohol and remove it from your system so if you drink heavily in the evening, you may still be over the limit the following day.
Drugs, medicine and riding
If you’ve taken illegal drugs, it’s against the law for you to ride. See GOV.UK for more information on drug driving.
The effects of illegal drugs can be even more serious than alcohol. Drugs can have unpredictable effects and you may not be aware of them affecting you. The direct effects of some drugs can last up to 72 hours.
During 2011, at least 640 accidents were caused by drug-drivers (using illegal drugs or medicines), including 49 deaths (source: Department of Transport).
Some medicines can make you sleepy and will affect your ability to ride. Whether you’ve bought the medicine over the counter or been given it on prescription, always read the label. If it says ‘may cause drowsiness’, it will probably will make you sleepy. If you’re not sure whether it’s safe to drive while taking a medicine, check with your doctor or pharmacist.
Taking a combination of prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, illegal drugs, controlled drugs or alcohol can have an unpredictable effect on you, so you should not ride a motorbike while you could be affected by them.
If you’re tired, you will not be fully alert and aware of what’s going on around you, which means that you will not be able to ride safely. Do not begin a journey if you feel tired.
If you start to feel tired while you’re riding
- find somewhere safe to stop so you can rest (never on a motorway hard shoulder)
- try having a caffeine drink and, if you can, a short nap to refresh you before you start riding again.
To help you stay alert, make sure you
- take regular breaks on long journeys, especially at night
- sit properly and comfortably: being uncomfortable will make you tire more quickly
- use ear plugs to protect yourself from noise, which can be tiring if you’re exposed to it for a long time
- wear the correct protective clothing to keep yourself warm, dry and comfortable, including gloves and boots.
Extremes of emotions – such as anger, sadness, stress, grief or even happiness – will affect your concentration and how you judge what’s happening on the road. Many crashes are caused each year by drivers and riders being careless, thoughtless or reckless. If necessary, take some time to calm down and get into the right frame of mind.
Riding with an injury
You must make sure that you have full control of your motorbike at all times.
- a twisted ankle can affect how you use the foot controls
- a stiff neck can make it difficult to check mirrors and blind spots.
If you’ve suffered an injury, you may want to check with your doctor before you ride. Think before you ride: if you cannot control the motorbike properly and see all around, you will not be able to ride safely.
To have a driving licence, you must be able to read in good daylight, with glasses or contact lenses if necessary, a vehicle number plate from a distance of 20 metres (about 5 car lengths). If you need glasses or contact lenses to do this, you must wear them whenever you’re riding your motorbike.
Eyesight changes over time so you must have an eyesight test at least every 2 years. If you ride when your eyesight does not meet the standard, you’ll be riding illegally and you’ll be less safe on the road.
When the sun is bright, use sunglasses to reduce glare, which can make your eyes tired and reduce the amount you can see. Make sure you take them off when you ride through a tunnel or when conditions are less bright so you can still see clearly.
You must not wear tinted glasses, visors or goggles in the dark or when there’s poor visibility.
Your mind and body go through gradual changes, especially as you get older. These changes can affect your riding – for example, your reactions may become slower, you may tire more easily or your muscles may become weaker.
As you grow older, you’ll need to concentrate more carefully on your riding and take care when judging the speed of other traffic.
Speak to your doctor if you’re concerned about whether you’re safe to ride.