When you’re intoxicated, you are more likely to stumble, fall, and have difficulty walking in a straight line. This is called drunk walking. It’s illegal to drink and drive, as you are unable to properly operate a large piece of equipment (a vehicle) when you are intoxicated. In order to avoid drinking and driving, campaigns urge intoxicated individuals to find another way home. Many individuals opt for drunk walking home. However, recent research has shed some highlights on the dangers of drunk walking. (Note: this post is not intended to encourage individuals to drink and drive, but instead consider cabs, buses, and car-sharing services as the optimal mode of transportation home after a night of drinking).
The Shocking Statistics on Drunk Walking
In 2009, it’s estimated that 34,000 people died in traffic accidents. Of these people, 4,000 were pedestrians and 35% of those pedestrians were drunk. That is an estimated 1,400 deaths from drunk walking in 2009. More recent data was released by the Department of Transportation. In 2011, alcohol was present in more than 33% of pedestrians that were killed in car accidents.
Steve Levitt, Professor of Economics and author of Freakonomics, concluded that every mile walked drunk is eight times more dangerous than every mile driven drunk. So, if you are drunk walking one mile home from a party, you are eight times more likely to die than if you drive that mile home. These statements by Steve Levitt have been met with some criticism, such as from the Huffington Post, who believe Levitt downplayed the dangers of drinking and driving too much.
Why Is Drunk Walking So Dangerous?
There are some factors to consider that could explain these statistics. Generally speaking, if a person chooses drunk walking home versus drunk driving home, they may know they are heavily intoxicated. While some people may get behind the wheel after a drink or two, people who are incredibly drunk will be more likely to stop themselves from driving. And, in this heavily intoxicated state, while drunk walking they could not pay attention to the road, jaywalk, and make poor decisions.
Additionally, if you are drunk walking home it’s likely late at night and dark out. When you get into a crash, and you’re in the car, the consequences could range from mild (small injuries) to extensive (including death). However, if you’re wearing dark clothes, and drunk walking home in the dark, getting hit by a car will most likely have devastating consequences.
What is the Solution?
Spokesman Jonathan Adkins for the Governors Highway Safety Association told the Associated Press that anti-drunk driving campaigns may have led people to conclude that drunk walking is a solution. Adkins stated, “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.” Jonathan Adkins is proposing educational campaigns on the dangers of drunk walking.