Educating Alcohol Consumers

Most people know the risks of drinking and driving, but what many people may not know is that excessive drinking can have the same deadly consequences for pedestrians. Alcohol plays an important factor in one-third of all pedestrian deaths. Alcohol-related pedestrian deaths often involve males and occur at night, especially on weekends. Clarify this to indicate the ped is drinking, and the number doesn't include drivers who kill sober pedestrians.

Alcohol impairs physical agility and balance. It also adversely affects judgment and other thought processes, which become extremely important when pedestrians try to cross the road. The alcohol impaired driver is a major threat to pedestrians and all other road users. Researchers have found that for a pedestrian, a very high level of alcohol is associated with risk of being in a pedestrian crash. That level is 0.20 grams/deciliter blood alcohol concentration (BAC) compared to the national standard of 0.08 g/dcl BAC to be considered an impaired driver.

Key messages for alcohol consumers

The following messages for alcohol consumers are described in the NHTSA resource guide, The Facts: Impaired Pedestrians:

For motorists:

  • Do not drive impaired. It slows your reaction time, impairs your judgment, and affects your alertness and coordination.
  • When you drive, particularly at night around populated areas, watch for sudden, unexpected movements by pedestrians. Scan the road widely and often, and prepare for the unexpected. Slow down!
  • If you know someone who has been drinking and is planning to walk, call them a cab or offer to drive or escort them, even if it is only a short distance.

For pedestrians:

  • Remember that alcohol affects your balance, impairs your judgment, and reduces your alertness and coordination. It can also affect your vision.
  • Limit how much alcohol you consume, especially if you plan to walk. Do not fool yourself about your ability to walk in traffic safely.
  • Be more visible to traffic by carrying a flashlight or wearing retro-reflective clothing at night. During the day, wearing fluorescent colors is best. Wearing white, especially at night, is not enough.
  • If you know someone who has been drinking and is planning to walk, offer to call them a cab or escort them, even if it is only for a short distance.

Strategies for educating alcohol consumers

One strategy for educating alcohol consumers is to initiate public awareness and education campaigns to inform pedestrians and alert drivers about the hazards associated with walking while impaired. It is also important to train law enforcement officers and point of sale personnel about impaired pedestrian dangers.

However, the problem of alcohol impaired drivers and pedestrians is complex, and requires a multifaceted approach beyond education-based programs alone. Here are some additional strategies that could be combined with public awareness campaigns to provide a more comprehensive approach to the alcohol issue:

  • Develop or amend laws that control the availability of alcohol.
  • Work with health officials, employment centers, and other related groups for the early identification and treatment of persons with alcohol problems.
  • Address environmental issues (e.g., through improved lighting, speed control measures on commercial strips, etc.) and devise different interventions for use on high-speed roads in rural areas and medium speed roads in urban areas. See the Engineering section for more strategies related to environmental issues.

Alcohol impairment remains a very difficult problem. For more information on this issue, visit the links below.

Helpful links

The Facts. Impaired Pedestrians
Whether you are a motorist or a pedestrian, this one-page publication lists advice for dealing with alcohol-impaired pedestrians and reducing potential injury.
Alcohol Impaired Pedestrians Among Diverse Populations
Summary of a study that addressed the involvement of various cultural populations in alcohol-related pedestrian crashes, and suggested potential countermeasures targeting this problem.