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It Is Time to Remove "Bicycle" from the Definition of "Vehicle" in Ohio's DUI Code

by Brad Koffel

It is time for local governments to get smart about DUI and bicycles.  When most citizens are unaware of the fact that current Ohio law treats DUI on a bicycle the exact same as DUI in a car, there is something wrong.  Most people have a hard time advancing a credible and articulate explanation as to why an alleged impaired bicyclist is equally dangerous as a drunk driver behind the wheel of an SUV and should be prosecuted identically as the SUV driver. 

I agree you shouldn't be messed up on a bike but you shouldn't be messed up walking on streets and across streets.  If you are noticeably impaired, in public, you can be prosecuted for Public Intoxication and/or Disorderly Conduct.  Why can't that cover being intoxicated on a bicycle, too?  Why the necessity to call it what it is not -- Operating a Vehicle While Under the Influence? 

There is not one dictionary that includes a bicycle as a "vehicle".  There is not one reasonable citizen that would define a bicycle as a "vehicle".  Golf carts? OK.  Motorized scooters? Sure.  Snowmobiles? I agree.  But, a bike? Why is a dismounted bicyclist pushing his or her bike on the very same roadway legal but riding it at a slow speed is DUI?  Riding your bike while allegedly impaired on a bike path is DUI but riding your bike while impaired on the grassy area next to the path is not DUI? This is crazy. 

Why not a motorized wheelchair?  That is specifically excluded in R.C. 4511.19.  Why hasn't "Trackless Trolley" been removed from the DUI code by now?  Is anyone really paying attention to how ludicrous the definition of vehicle has become?

There are more exceptions than there are rules.  The exceptions have become the rule. 

Remember, bicycle was specifically incorporated into 4511.19 in the same era as Vega, lowering the legal limit to .100, creating "per se" statutes, and raising the drinking age to 21.  It was all tied to the major transportation bill of 1982.  But, I am pretty sure the transportation bill of 1982 didn't require states to say bikes are vehicles.

Having "bicycle" included in the definition of a vehicle doesn't even pass the common sense test for the reasonable person.  It shouldn't be a DUI.  It should be public intoxication, not DUI.  

Much of that generation of knee jerk legislation pushed the pendulum too far.  It is now time to bring it back a little bit. 

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