You should think twice before you stagger into the street – or climb aboard a bicycle — after boozing it up.
That’s the message from a group of safety advocates who studied more than two decades of traffic fatalities. They also say transportation agencies should do more to spread that message by making people aware of the risks drunken pedestrians and bicyclists face.
Factor in the recent popularity of citywide bar crawls and pairing bike trails with brew pubs, however — not to mention the likelihood these days that people are weaving down the street while posting Instagram pictures of their big moment at the ice luge — and the call to action from the Governors Highway Safety Association seems especially timely. The same group recently reported that pedestrian deaths had soared more than 25 percent between 2010 and 2015, a rate far faster than the overall increase in traffic fatalities.
On Wednesday, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported that, despite progress in recent decades, more than one-third of the pedestrians and one-fifth of bicyclists who were killed in crashes in 2014 were legally drunk.
The IIHS study examined traffic deaths for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists from 1982 to 2014, using a federal database. It found that the percentage of pedestrians who were fatally injured and had blood alcohol readings of at least .08 had declined from 45 percent in 1982 to 35 percent by 2014; the percentage of bicyclists with high BACs dropped to 21 percent from 28 percent in the same period. In that same period, however, the percentage of motorists in DUI fatalities dropped to 32 percent from 51 percent.
The study also found that the biggest reduction for traffic fatalities involving pedestrians and bicyclists concerned those who were between the ages of 16 to 20 – a reduction the researchers attribute to raising the drinking age to 21 over that time.
“The public needs to be better informed about the dangers of alcohol impairment for anybody on the road,” lead author and senior IIHS researcher Angela Eichelberger said in a statement.
The governors association and IIHS, noting that other campaigns have had an effect in reducing fatalities involving motorists, urged state highway officials to broaden anti-DUI campaigns to reach pedestrians and remind them of the risks heading into traffic on foot or on a bike after drinking. Hailing a taxi, using a ride-hailing app or relying on a designated driver could reduce the risks.
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