Drunk Walking as Deadly as Drunk Driving

August 15, 2013

Everyone knows the dangers of drunk driving, but drunk walking can be just a deadly, according to data recently released by Anthony Foxx, recently appointed Secretary of Transportation.

Alcohol involvement— either for the driver or the pedestrian—was reported in 48% of all fatal pedestrian crashes, according to data reported to the National Highway Safety Administration by the states. Fox released the data at a press conference in Washington, D.C. kicking off a campaign reduce pedestrian deaths.

More than a third of 1,547 pedestrians killed in 2011 had blood alcohol levels at or over the legal 0.08 limit. Among younger adults aged 25- to 34-years-old who were killed, 50% were alcohol impaired. Just under 50% of the pedestrians killed who were in their early 20s to mid-50s were also impaired. Only among pedestrians age 55 or older or younger than age 20 was number of those killed a third or less.

By comparison, only 13% of drivers involved in crashes in which pedestrians were killed were over the 0.08 limit. Overall, about a third of traffic fatalities in 2011 — 31%, or 9,878 deaths — were attributable to crashes involving a driver with a BAC of 0.08 or higher.

There were 4,432 pedestrian fatalities in 2011, the latest year for which data is available. That was up 3% from the previous year.

Jonathan Adkins, a spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association, told the Associated Press that anti-drunk driving campaigns may be encouraging more people to walk home after a night of drinking.

"What it (the data) 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," Adkins said.

Alcohol can impair pedestrians' judgment and lead them to make bad decisions, like crossing a road in the wrong place, crossing is against the light, or "trying to beat a bus that's coming," he said.

NHTSA has a program called "Everyone is a Pedestrian" that is designed to raise awareness of the dangers to pedestrians. "Unfortunately, pedestrians were one of the few groups of road users to experience an increase in fatalities in the United States in 2011, totaling 4,432 deaths," NHTSA points out. "On average, a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every eight minutes in traffic crashes.

NHTSA's program "Everyone is a Pedestrian" provides the following safety tips to those walking:

  • Be predictable. Follow the rules of the road and obey signs and signals.

- Walk on sidewalks whenever they are available.

  • If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible.

- Keep alert at all times; don't be distracted by electronic devices that take your eyes (and ears) off the road.

  • Cross streets at crosswalks or intersections whenever possible. This is where drivers expect pedestrians. Look for cars in all directions – including those turning left or right.

    • If a crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area where you have the best view of traffic. Wait for a gap in traffic that allows you enough time to cross safely, and continue to watch for traffic as you cross.

- Never assume a driver sees you. Make eye contact with drivers as they approach you to make sure you are seen.

- Be visible at all times. Wear bright clothing during the day, and wear reflective materials or use a flashlight at night.

- Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways, or backing up in parking lots.

- Avoid alcohol and drugs when walking; they impair your abilities and judgment too.

The following are safety tips for driving around pedestrians:

- Look out for pedestrians everywhere, at all times. Safety is a shared responsibility.

  • Use extra caution when driving in hard-to-see conditions, such as nighttime or in bad weather.

- Slow down and be prepared to stop when turning or otherwise entering a crosswalk.

- Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and stop well back from the crosswalk to give other vehicles an opportunity to see the crossing pedestrians so they can stop too.

- Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. There may be people crossing that you can't see.

- Never drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

- Follow the speed limit, especially around people on the street.

  • Follow slower speed limits in school zones and in neighborhoods where there are children present.

- Be extra cautious when backing up – pedestrians can move into your path.

General information on highway traffic safety can be accessed by Internet users at www.nhtsa.gov/NCSA. To report a safety-related problem or to inquire about motor vehicle safety information, contact the Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236.




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