Alcohol is known to disrupt the effect of neurotransmitters and impair various psychomotor skills. Indeed,
alcohol intoxication is a significant risk factor for fatal traffic crashes, especially when riding a motorcycle.
At present, there is sparse research on the impairing effects of alcohol on skills involved in motorcycle
control. This study was designed to measure the effect of alcohol (up to a blood alcohol concentration of .08
grams per deciliter) on a broad set of basic riding skills. These riding skills were assessed on a test track with
task scenarios based on the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s training program. This study used a balanced
incomplete block design to remove confounding artifacts (learning effects) by randomizing four BACs
across three test days. Performance was characterized in terms of riding strategy used to cope with the
effects of alcohol as a neurological stressor and the amount of resulting impairment with reference to
specified performance standards. The analysis controlled for rider gender and age, riding skill, and drinking
history. The results showed there were observable changes in motorcycle control and rider behavior in
response to alcohol that are indicative of impairment. In general, intoxicated riders demonstrated longer
response times and adopted larger tolerances leading to more task performance errors. Riders appeared to
protect bike stability at the expense of other task performance and riders tried harder -- where possible -- to
fully or partially compensate for the negative effects of alcohol. Most of the alcohol effects were evident at
the per se BAC .08 g/dL level, but some of the effects were observed at the lower BAC .05. Given that this
study used experienced riders performing highly practiced tasks with low to moderate levels of alcohol, the
effect of alcohol on motorcycle control and rider behavior were modest except when task demand was high
(offset weave), time pressure was high (hazard avoidance for near obstacles), and tolerances were
constrained (circuit track). The practical significance of the findings was discussed in terms of study
Creaser, Janet; Ward, Nic; Rakauskas, Mick; Boer, E.; Shankwitz, Craig; Nardi, Flavia.
Effects of Alcohol on Motorcycle Riding Skills.
Minnesota Department of Transportation.
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