Performance of a cognitive, but not visual, secondary task interacts with alcohol-induced balance impairment in novice and experienced motorcycle riders


The appropriateness of applying drink driving legislation to motorcycle riding has been questioned as there may be fundamental differences in the effects of alcohol on driving and motorcycling. It has been suggested that alcohol may redirect riders’ focus from higher-order cognitive skills such as cornering, judgement and hazard perception, to more physical skills such as maintaining balance. To test this hypothesis, the effects of low doses of alcohol on balance ability were investigated in a laboratory setting. The static balance of twenty experienced and twenty novice riders was measured while they performed either no secondary task, a visual (search) task, or a cognitive (arithmetic) task following the administration of alcohol (0%, 0.02%, and 0.05% BAC). Subjective ratings of intoxication and balance impairment increased in a dose-dependent manner in both novice and experienced motorcycle riders, while a BAC of 0.05%, but not 0.02%, was associated with impairments in static balance ability. This balance impairment was exacerbated when riders performed a cognitive, but not a visual, secondary task. Likewise, 0.05% BAC was associated with impairments in novice and experienced riders’ performance of a cognitive, but not a visual, secondary task, suggesting that interactive processes underlie balance and cognitive task performance. There were no observed differences between novice vs. experienced riders on static balance and secondary task performance, either alone or in combination. Implications for road safety and future ‘drink riding’ policy considerations are discussed.

Accident Analysis & Prevention