May. 10, 2005 05:00 PM
SOMERSET, Ky. – A man has been charged with drunken driving – for riding a horse while allegedly intoxicated. Millard Greg Dwyer, 42, was arrested Sunday night after he rode his horse onto a downtown street in front of an off-duty state trooper, Somerset Police Lt. Allan Coomer said. Trooper Martin Wesley told local officers that Dwyer looked like he was about to fall off the horse. Coomer said Dwyer admitted to being drunk and told officers that he had ridden the horse from Fishing Creek, which was about 5 miles away.Dwyer told officers that he had consumed about a 12-pack, Coomer said. Dwyer failed sobriety tests, Coomer said, and was charged with operating a vehicle other than a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicants.A breath test showed Dwyer’s alcohol level at .244, more than three times the limit, Coomer said.Dwyer was released from the Pulaski County Dentention Center Monday, jail officials said. He faces a fine of between $20-$100, plus court costs, Coomer said.Coomer said the arrest was “very unusual,” but Somerset police have arrested others for similar violations, such as riding a bicycle and a lawn mower under the influence.
Believe it or not, this is not an isolated event. There have been several other DUI cases around the nation recently that involve people riding horses, lawnmowers, golf carts or bicycles under the influence. In Kansas, you have to be driving a “motor vehicle” to be charged under the state statute. However, cities are free to make up their own laws that will apply to their city. The City of Wichita has a law against riding a bicycle under the influence of alcohol. The penalties are exactly the same as for driving a car under the influence. See, CITY OF WICHITA v. HACKETT, 275 Kan. 848 (2003)
The laws against a person driving a car while drunk are good laws. Being intoxicated while behind the wheel of a car puts the drunk driver, his or her passengers and everyone else on the road in danger because cars are heavy hunks of metal that can be moved at fast speeds. I completely understand why it is prohibited (how impairment is determined or how the law is enforced are different subjects). But, I cannot understand why we need laws that prohibit people from riding horses or bicycles while intoxicated. While it is possible, remotely, that a drunken bicyclist could create a hazard on the road, you cannot cause much damage with a bicycle, except maybe to yourself. Bicycling certainly does not pose the risk to the motoring public that driving a car does. These laws apparently exist to protect people from their own stupidity, which is a questionable role for government to play.
I would prefer that police officers spend their time preventing crime and enforcing laws that protect people from dangerous individuals and activities. I would also rather that people in Wichita, or other cities, ride their bikes to and from the bars instead of drive cars. If you make the penalties the same, people have little incentive to choose the lesser of the two evils. Public policy should dictate that riding a bike under the influence is nowhere nearly as dangerous as driving a car in that condition and, as such, it should be legal or the penalties should reflect the greatly minimized danger to the public that it represents. For now, though, you had better think twice before you mount your horse, bicycle or lawnmower after you’ve had something to drink.