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Drunk Pedestrians at Greater Risk of Getting Hit by Vehicles

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Warning (Drunken People Crossing sign)The increase in pedestrian fatalities and injuries in many states (as this blog noted yesterday) could be due to drunk pedestrians, news reports say. Joan Lowy writes for the Associated Press in a Denver Post article that more than one third of pedestrians killed in 2011 had blood alcohol levels higher than the legal limit for driving. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data released on Monday, 35% of those walkers who were killed by vehicles had blood alcohol levels of 0.08 or more.

Half of the 625 pedestrians ages 25 to 34 who were killed were alcohol-impaired, Lowy writes. And just under half of the pedestrians killed who were in their early 20s and their mid-30s to mid-50s were also impaired. By comparison, Lowy writes, 13% of drivers involved in car accidents in which pedestrians were killed were over the .08 blood alcohol level limit.

Anti-drunk driving campaigns might be encouraging some drinkers to walk home while inebriated, said Jonathan Adkins, a spokesman for the Governor’s Highway Safety Council. In referring to the data, he said, “What it says to us is that nationally we’ve done a good job of educating people about the dangers of drunk driving, but we haven’t done such a good job of reminding them that other drunk behavior, including walking, can be just as dangerous.”

Justin A. Heinonen and John E. Eck write for the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, a nonprofit organization:

… [I]t is not illegal for pedestrians to walk with a BAC level of 0.10 percent. Nonetheless, ‘impaired’ pedestrians can contribute to pedestrian-vehicle crashes because they likely have slower reaction time, have poor judgment, and are not likely assessing the safeness of walking conditions.

For instance, while pedestrians who have not drunk alcohol are more aware of increased walking risks, drunken pedestrians tend to be more oblivious to traffic conditions, poor lighting, and poor weather. Consequently, drunken pedestrians are more likely to be injured or killed by vehicles because of their inability to recognize dangerous walking and traffic conditions.

Finally, the more one drinks, the higher the risk of being involved in a pedestrian-vehicle crash resulting in a fatality. One study found that out of 176 pedestrian fatalities, 86 of those involved pedestrians who had been drinking, nearly all of whom had BACs of 0.10 percent or more.

Writing for CNN, Mike M. Ahlers provides “six things you should know” when it comes to walking while drunk:

1. The Department of Transportation says that alcohol impairs not only driving, but also walking.

2. Use a crosswalk if you are walking, whether sober or under the influence of alcohol, because 70% of pedestrian fatalities took place away from intersections, and 19% at intersections.

3. Don’t walk at night, because 70% of pedestrian fatalities occurred at night.

4. Most pedestrian accidents (including three out of every four fatalities) happen in cities (which makes sense because people walk a lot more in cities than outside of cities).

5. Weekend nights are more dangerous for pedestrians, as 39% of such fatalities take place on weekend nights, as compared with 27% on weekday nights.

6. More than two-thirds of pedestrian fatalities are males, who are “over-represented” in every age group, from children through over 85.

Image by Anes (Ane Jensen).


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Sally from Denver, Colorado

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