Is Drunk Walking A Good Alternative To Drunk Driving?

By driving under the influence, you could cause harm to property, yourself, and others. You could also be charged with DUI/OVI. Thanks to public awareness programs, the risks of drunk driving are well known. Not so well known are the risks of drunk walking…until now.

In the 2009 book SuperFreakonomics, authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner compare the risks involved in drunk driving and drunk walking. According to the authors, driving-age Americans walk 43 billion miles each year. Assuming that one mile out of each 140 miles is walked drunk, the same proportion of miles that are driven drunk, then 307 million miles are walked drunk each year. The authors conclude: “Doing the math, you find that on a per-mile basis, a drunk walker is eight times more likely to get killed than a drunk driver”. This section of the book invited criticism regarding the statistical analysis used to reach the conclusion. It also ignited controversy over the suggestion that driving drunk is a safer choice.

Drunk stranger.jpgGovernment data released earlier this week partially agrees with SuperFreakonomics: walking drunk is not a safe choice. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) collected information from all 50 states regarding pedestrian fatalities and reported it in the “Pedestrians” section of Traffic Safety Facts. The report says that about 37% of pedestrians killed in 2011 traffic crashes had blood alcohol levels of.08 or higher. Of the drivers involved in those fatal crashes, about 13% were at or above .08.


NHTSA is taking action to improve pedestrian safety. When it released the data in Traffic Safety Facts, NHTSA also announced a new program to help prevent pedestrian deaths: Everyone Is A Pedestrian. The program’s website provides tips and resources people can use to increase pedestrian safety, and the administration is making available $2 million in grants to the cities with the highest rates of pedestrian deaths.

Ohio has more than its share of pedestrian fatalities. The NHTSA report indicates Ohio had 104 pedestrian fatalities in 2011, which was about 10% of all the pedestrian fatalities in the nation. Ohio does not have any individual cities with the highest rates of pedestrian deaths, so no cities in Ohio will receive any of the new grant money for pedestrian safety programs. However, Ohio does have its own Bike And Pedestrian Program, developed by the Ohio Department of Transportation, that provides information and resources to individuals and local governments.

From a legal perspective, drunk walking is not as risky as drunk driving. While a drunk pedestrian may be charged with Jaywalking and Disorderly Conduct, a drunk driver may be charged with DUI/OVI, and the penalties for Ohio DUI/OVI are significantly harsher than the potential sentences for Jaywalking and Disorderly Conduct. Neither is a good option. As the authors of SuperFreakonomics commented, “It would be even better, obviously, to drink less or to call a cab.”