Our society is filled with contradictions. We continually espouse basic principles that reality denies. One of my favorite examples of this comes from the Judeo-Christian Bible, in which the Old Testament has 10 Commandments. The number one Commandment is “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” Yet we, as a society, consciously decide to do just that on a regular basis, both individually and sanctioned, or conducted by, the government. I have no desire to discuss the merits of capital punishment here, or anything related to that issue. Rather, my point is, that we have another Commandment: “Thou Shalt Not Ride Under the Influence.” And yet, on an almost daily basis, the motorcycling community, and society in general, sanctions, supports, and promotes activities that fly in the fact of that Commandment. Is that wrong? Is there truly a contradiction here?
Take the local “Bike Night.” Around here, they’re almost always held at bars. And the bars go out of their way to make sure that all the attendees have ample access to a variety of alcoholic drinks, usually at low, low, wallet-saver prices. The “Poker Runs” that are held have a variety of stops, and almost always, they’re either bars, or motorcycle related retail establishments. Obviously the bars are selling alcohol, but interestingly, even the bike shops will usually manage to find a way to make sure everyone gets a cold beer. Or three. As for the big bike events, well… In my earlier years in motorcycling, especially with the HD community, I can honestly say that alcohol poisoning or drug overdose was a clear and present danger as the days of the event progressed. Someday I may write up a few trips to Daytona Bike Weeks, but will most certainly be anonomously. Statute of Limitations, and all that stuff.
You might say something like: “well, anyone can drink irresponsibly, but most people can manage to have a few beers or drinks and not become impaired.” I don’t know what the laws are in your community, but in Florida, the legal Blood Alcohol Level is .08. That is an extremely low threshold, one that most people would fail if they had a beer and a few minutes later were given a breath test. If you’re under 21 in Florida, the legal level is .02, so virtually any alcohol consumption is illegal. How much alcohol is too much? Is any alcohol ok? If you feel “buzzed,” are you by definition unfit to ride? If your intent wasn’t to get buzzed, why not drink one of the no-alcohol beers (some of which are pretty good these days) or get a soda or sport drink?
Let’s toss drugs in the mix. Another fine contradiction in our society is the schizophrenic attitude on them. One the one hand, we have extremely draconian drug laws, we spend billions on policing them, and we have literally millions of people in prison for crimes related to the preparation, distributions, or consumption of drugs. Yet millions of Americans, from teens (or younger) to middle-aged adults, consume illegal drugs, often on a daily basis. Like the First Commandment, I have no desire to discuss if drugs should be legal, or anything related to that. Yet, every day, thousands of riders toke up before they ride, do a line or two at the local club, or meth, or whatever that drug might be. In this case, the law is in no way reflective of the reality.
It’s not just illegal drugs either. There has been an explosion in legally prescribed narcotics in this country. Oxycodon, Vicodin, and other narcotic based painkillers are being prescribed at rates that stagger the mind, as well as the body. I read a statistic the other day that indicated enough Oxycodon and Vicodin were prescribed in 2006 to give a 30 milligram dose to every man, woman, and child in the country. Emergency room cases of prescription drug overdoses are rising rapidly. Many riders are getting on their bikes after taking these medications. Perhaps they have an injury or arthritis, and using the pills makes riding less painful. Or maybe they take them to enjoy the effect. Either way, there is no doubt that an increasing number of riders are R.U.I., in this case, legally, and except in extreme cases, undetectably.
So, where do we go with this? Do we say it’s ok to ride after a couple of beers or splitting a joint with a friend? Is any influence of drugs or alcohol unacceptable? Will the industry begin supporting “Buzz Free Bike Night” instead of “Free Beer Bike Night?” Will Tiny Tim ever be able to ride his chopper with his dual-feed beer hat on and not get hassled by the Man? I sure don’t know, what do you think?