After drunken falls, Metro warns of riding while impaired

December 30, 2013


Usually the message is don’t drink and drive — meant to warn those who are intoxicated not to get behind the wheel of a vehicle.

But Metro officials are warning riders that drinking too much and riding on the rail system can be dangerous, too, after a series of incidents where intoxicated riders fell onto the rail tracks, tumbled down escalators or fell over side walls into narrow areas.

No one died as a result of the falls, Metro officials said, but several people were injured, some seriously.

In the last two months “intoxication was a primary factor” in six cases of people falling in the Metro system, according to Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. In the last week alone, there have been two such incidents, he said.

Metro has caught many of the incidents on video surveillance cameras.

In a November incident, a man can be seen coming down an escalator at the Clarendon station, and, as he leans on a handrail, he loses his balance and falls about 20 feet backward behind half of a wall. He was taken to a hospital and treated for head and neck injuries.

In another November incident, a video shows a woman staggering to the edge of the platform at the Stadium-Armory station before falling over the edge onto the track bed. She stands up after a few seconds and several passersby help pull her back onto the platform.

A man at McPherson Square lost his balance while riding on an escalator and landed on a platform below in another November incident.

One video shows a man who appears to be passed out leaning against a wall and trash can at the L’Enfant Plaza station early Monday morning. The man then falls backward into light grates. He was hospitalized and in listed in stable condition, according to Metro. Stessel said the man’s blood alcohol level “was more than three times the legal limit to drive a car.”

Two other incidents occurred where riders were intoxicated, according to Metro. On Christmas Day, a man fell from the upper level platform at L’Enfant Plaza. He suffered severe head and neck trauma and is still in a hospital, according to Metro officials. And in an incident that occurred earlier this month, a man lost his balance on an escalator at the Archives station, fell over the side and landed behind a wall.

Metro’s warning comes on the cusp of New Year’s Eve, when the system will stay open until 2 a.m. and many more riders are expected to be out celebrating. Officials said they want to remind riders to be careful when riding the rail system, especially when they are intoxicated.

“Falling off the platform can cause injury,” Stessel said, “and puts you at risk of getting hit by a train or getting electrocuted by third-rail power.”

“The point here is that there is such a thing as too drunk to be on Metro,” Stessel said. “If you are unable to walk properly, maintain balance and exercise good judgment, you are better off taking a cab or having someone who hasn’t been drinking drive you, for your own safety.”

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Dana Hedgpeth is the Washington Post’s lead reporter in covering the Metro rail and bus systems in the D.C. region and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) that runs them.
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Robert Thomson · December 30, 2013