Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Don’t drink and walk

I know someone who works in the highways department of a metropolitan council, and he says one of their major road safety issues is accidents involving drunken pedestrians in town centres, mainly at weekends. So, while this initiative in Blackpool to highlight the risks of being out on the streets when drunk may seem like just another bout of nannying, it is addressing a genuine problem. Alcohol affects your judgment and spatial awareness just as much on foot as in a car, and if people are larking or staggering about in close proximity to motor vehicles they can come to serious harm at surprisingly low speeds. Over 50% of all adult pedestrian fatalities on the roads involve people who are over the legal drink-driving limit.

However, it’s important to retain a sense of perspective, and I can’t see how anything is needed beyond increasing awareness and maybe some judicious redesign of the road system to minimise conflicts between vehicles and revellers. We don’t want to get to the situation in Australia – now Official World Nannying Capital – where alcohol limits for pedestrians are being seriously proposed.

Clearly it makes sense before you go out to have a plan for how you intend to end the evening, and not to let yourself get in such a state that you really have no idea how you are going to get home. It would not surprise me if many of the deaths of drunken pedestrians involved those who had attempted long walks home that they probably wouldn’t contemplate if they were sober. Another risk not to be laughed off is that they may fall victim to hypothermia.

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