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California Crackdown on Biking While Intoxicated

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By Kamika Dunlap on November 03, 2009 10:01 AM

The California Highway Patrol is cracking down on cyclists under the influence.

Police have begun to cruise streets looking for bicycles (and cars) being driven erratically or in a way that suggests impairment, such as weaving or crossing a center line.

CHP officers recently charged seven bicyclists with riding under the influence during a one-night crackdown in Sacramento, reports USA Today.

Like California, most states require bike riders to follow the same rules of the road as car drivers, says the League of American Bicyclists, which supports enforcement of rules against drunken cycling.

Under California CUI laws (Cycling Under the Influence), riding while under the influence is punishable by up to a $250 fine, according to highway patrol officials. In addition, bicyclists caught drunk may be arrested and have to remain in a jail cell until sobered.

The arrest then becomes part of a criminal record, though it does not affect driving or insurance records. A rider may dispute the assessment by asking for a breath, blood or urine test.

Many bicycle fatalities have been linked to alcohol.

In fact, about 21 percent of autopsies for New York City bicyclists who died within three hours of their accidents detected alcohol in the body, according to a Department of Health and Mental Hygiene report that reviewed fatal bicycling accidents in New York City from 1996 to 2005.

"It's something we have to call attention to," said Catherine Stayton, director of the health department's injury epidemiology unit, in a New Times story. "To learn this is new for us. We want to get that information out there."