Policy/Biz

Drunk Walking As Deadly As Drunk Driving? 1 In 3 Pedestrians Killed Have Blood Alcohol Level Above Legal Limit

Man Drinking Beer
The new "Everyone Is A Pedestrian" campaign raises awareness about pedestrian safety. Drunk walking may be as dangerous as drunk driving. Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland announced Monday that they will be setting forth the "Everyone Is A Pedestrian" campaign, a newly reinvigorated federal pedestrian safety initiative to combat the rising number of pedestrian deaths.

A large portion of the increase in pedestrian deaths can be attributed to drinking alcoholic beverages prior to walking. According to the Associated Press, there were 4,432 pedestrian fatalities in 2011. Of those, 35 percent of pedestrians killed had blood alcohol levels above the legal limit for driving. Half of pedestrians killed between the ages of 25 and 34 were alcohol-impaired while walking.

"What [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," said Jonathan Adkins, spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association.

And walkers aren't the only people who have bad alcohol-related decision making. In the wake of new bike share programs in cities across the country, Adkins also warns about riding bikes while alcohol-impaired.

"Bicyclists are a small number of fatalities anyway," said Adkins. "But it makes sense. For the same reason there are drunk pedestrians, you're going to see drunk bicyclists. You can be alcohol-impaired with just a few drinks. It's not that you're sloppy drunk and falling over, it is just that you're above .08."

This isn't the first time that officials have warned about the risks of walking while intoxicated. Just before New Year's Eve festivities kicked off last December, Dr. Thomas Esposito warned drinkers of how dangerous walking drunk can be.

"Alcohol impairs your physical ability, period," said Esposito, a trauma surgeon at Loyola University. "Every movement ranging from driving a car to simply walking to the bathroom is compromised."

He also offered a safety tip for those who will be walking while alcohol-impaired.

"It's a good idea to walk in a group, which is easier for drivers to spot, and try to walk with at least one person who has not been drinking, a designated chaperone or escort," he said.

For more information on the government's "Everyone Is A Pedestrian" initiative, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at NHTSA.gov.

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