Thousands of inebriated pedestrians die each year in traffic accidents. I’ve seen drunk people wandering into the street after drinking at various locations in the evening. When you get drunk, you think you’re invincible. You may not be paying attention to anything else. That could have deadly consequences.
Whether they’re emptying out of bars, going home from Super Bowl parties or trying to get across the highway, drunk walkers are dying on the roads across the country. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a third of pedestrians killed in crashes in 2016 were over the legal alcohol limit for drivers. That’s nearly 2,000 people, which is an increase of more than 300 since 2014.
“Those numbers are pretty shocking,” says Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association. Being drunk can affect your judgment and reaction time, and can result in poor decision making and risky behavior, such as crossing an intersection against the light or cutting across a street in the middle of a block.
Pedestrian deaths jumped 27 percent from 2007 to 2016, even as other U.S. traffic deaths dropped. Distracted walking and alcohol consumption are contributing to the problem, federal data shows. “Most people don’t realize how big a problem it is to be walking when you’re impaired,” says Jessica Cicchino, vice president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a research group funded by insurers. “You’re probably not going to be putting anyone else at risk, but you could be hurting yourself.”
Drivers often don’t see drunk pedestrians until it’s too late, especially at night, which is when most deaths occur. The victims typically are men ages 21 to 59 who are not crossing at an intersection, research shows. “If your reflexes are impaired, you might be stumbling into the roadway and not be able to act as quickly,” Cicchino says.
So far, small steps have been taken to address deaths of drunk pedestrians, according to an IIHS study. There aren’t many educational campaigns alerting people to the risk of alcohol impairment when walking or bicycling, the study found, and more research is needed to figure out how to prevent such deaths. There are many ways to hurt yourself and your law enforcement career due to alcohol. Certainly, drunk driving also remains an active issue for law enforcement, although awareness and responsible planning are increasing.
If you find yourself in any of these situations, please reach out for help. Call me at Psychological Services Bureau (PSB)/Substance Abuse Resource Program (SARP) at (213) 738-3500. Information and services are available to you, your spouse and your family, and it’s free. If you are sworn, Peace Officer’s Fellowship (POF) is available. You can contact one of the members listed here and they will be more than happy to assist a fellow deputy. If you are non-sworn, feel free to contact me for AA meeting resources.
Bergal, Jenni. “Thousands of inebriated pedestrians die each year in traffic accidents.” Washington Post, August 6, 2018. https://wapo.st/2FkZR8t.