V. Overall Themes
and Summary of Findings
- Most motorcycle riders in these groups consistently reported that they rode
a motorcycle for the benefits obtained from experiencing the open road, for
the opportunity to unwind from life’s daily pressures, for the satisfaction
associated with mastering the operation of a powerful machine, and for membership
in an elite group. A common comment was that riding allowed one to stop thinking
about everyday worries and concentrate on riding.
- Riders consistently characterized their strong social affinity for other
riders, suggesting a strong sense of community.
- Riders ride under different circumstances. Riders in our focus groups expressed
a range of riding preferences: some primarily rode in groups, others rode
alone, and some rode both alone and in groups, depending on the circumstances.
The majority felt that there was a limit to how big a group ride could be
and still operate safely. However, there were different opinions as to how
big that group would be.
- Eighty-seven percent of the riders in this study said they drank alcohol.
More than half stated they currently drank a few times per month to a few
times per week.
- Many of the drinking riders stated they drank more frequently in the past
and drank and rode more regularly in the past. Nearly all of the respondents
answering they never drank alcohol identified themselves as recovering
- Nearly all participants, at times, had made decisions about whether to drink
- Forty-eight percent of the riders in this study reported riding seldom
or occasionally after drinking, and the transcripts corroborate these
- Forty-eight percent of the riders in this study reported never riding after
drinking, and the focus group transcripts are consistent with these data.
- Typical rider-identified drinking-and-riding circumstances and venues include
biker bars, other bars and public establishments serving alcohol, poker runs,
national or regional rallies, and events and club meetings.
- Most riders are familiar with the term “BAC,” but question its value as
an indicator of impairment.
- A fundamental belief among riders is that “since drinking riders only hurt
themselves” (unlike car drivers), government intervention to discourage drinking
and riding is inappropriate. This belief is strongly linked to rider views
of freedom and independence.
- Virtually all riders in this study were vehemently opposed to the setting
of a lower BAC for riders relative to car drivers.
- Riders often discourage their peers from riding after drinking, but a culturally
reinforced respect for rider individuality and freedom and strong beliefs
in individual responsibility set boundaries for peer actions.
- Rider concern for the safety and security of the motorcycle nearly always
overshadows concerns for individual safety and contributes to drinking and
- Riders participating in this study did not consider traditional countermeasures
for drinking and riding such as fines and license suspension persuasive.
- Motorcycle impoundment and court-ordered payment of costs for vehicle storage,
alcohol rehabilitation programs, and other additional costs, however, were
There are striking parallels and notable differences between the findings of this
study and the NHTSA-funded 1994 focus group study. Both are outlined below.
- The participants in the Leadership Groups identified BAC as only one of
several factors that contribute to impairment.
- The Leadership Groups identified overwhelming legal and political barriers
to the concept of a lower legal BAC for riders of motorcycles than for drivers
- The Leadership Groups identified approaches based on victim impact panels
and social norms models as potentially promising directions for changes in
motorcycle rider education programs.
- Riders in our study were as passionate about motorcycling and the experience
of riding as the 1994 focus group participants. Many of the quotes in the
1994 report were noticeably similar to the quotes in this report.
- In both studies, many riders believed that drivers of cars frequently caused
motorcycle crashes, either indirectly through carelessness or directly with
presumed forethought and malice.
- Riders in both studies believed that individual differences were important
in physiological reactions to alcohol.
- Although not a focus of the current report, riders in both studies stated
that they would rather drive a car than ride a motorcycle if they knew they
would be drinking at their destination. There were subtle differences in the
way this area was probed in the two studies: the current study asked this
question in the context of any drinking, whereas the prior study
seems to have asked this question in the context of heavy drinking.
- Both studies indicated that intervention with friends commonly occurs. Confiscating
keys and tampering with ignition systems were reported in both studies as
ways to disable motorcycles of impaired riders. Riders in both studies were
equally reluctant to leave their motorcycles unattended overnight in public
parking areas and also reported the use of trucks or vans to transport the
motorcycles of impaired riders.
- In open discussion, riders stated that fines and license suspension were
viewed by their peers as ineffective countermeasures.
- Impoundment or the total loss of a motorcycle due to damage drew substantial,
animated responses from riders in the current study and are comparable with
the responses from the 1994 study.
As the focus of this study was different from the 1994 study, the sample selection
differed. The 1994 study was interested in identifying messages that might deter
riders from riding after drinking. As such, the participants were riders who
admitted to riding after drinking. This study sought to identify the reasons
and decision making for riders who chose to drink and ride, and for riders who
chose not to drink and ride, even though they did drink alcohol. Consequently,
the sample in this study consisted of riders who said they did drink alcohol,
but some indicated that they rode after drinking while others did not.
- Unlike the 1994 study, the results of this study do not suggest that drinking
and riding are consistently co-occurring activities. A substantial number
of riders participating in this study reported that motorcycle club activities
are moving closer towards alcohol-free events. They also said that drinking
riders, even if not always considered a hazard to themselves, are considered
a hazard to other riders.
- Our study revealed that organized club riders and road captains said that
followup trucks, which typically carried additional group gear and supplies,
were used to transport motorcycles that had experienced mechanical failure
during a ride. They were also used to transport the motorcycles of riders
who had become a hazard to themselves and/or to the group due to drinking
alcohol while engaged in a group ride.
- The results of the current study suggest intolerance to drinking riders
by their riding peers. Road captains reported that drinking riders were often
asked to refrain from further drinking and, if they did not comply, were asked
immediately to leave a group ride.
- Our study also revealed that riders in at least one region of the country
had experienced the substantial economic and other disruptive impacts of DUI/DWI
convictions, and expressed strong desires to avoid repeating this experience.
Overall, participants viewed fines alone as nonpersuasive; however, the total
costs of fines, court costs, attorney fees, rehabilitation costs, and impoundment
fees and storage charges were cited as consequences to avoid and reasons not
to drink and ride.
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