Don't Drink and Walk on New Year's Eve?

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We all know that getting behind the wheel after drinking is definitely dangerous and all-too-often deadly. Now researchers point out that we should think twice before we drink and walk, and especially on New Year’s Eve into New Year’s Day.

A study published in the journal Injury Prevention reports that more pedestrians are killed on New Year’s Day than on any other day of the year. New Year’s Day also has the fifth largest number of deaths per day overall, also associated with drinking alcohol. July 4 has more crash deaths on average than any other day of the year, with a high percentage of the deaths involving alcohol.

The report showed that overall, pedestrians account for about 13 percent of all crash deaths. Between 1986 and 2002, the researchers found that New Year’s Day and October 31 (Halloween) had the most pedestrian deaths on average, each with about 24 deaths per day. For the pedestrian deaths on New Year’s Day, the walker was intoxicated in 58 percent of the incidents. During the time covered in the study (1986 to 2002), a total of 410 pedestrians were killed on January 1.

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Dr. Thomas Esposito at Loyola University Health System in Maywood commented in a recent news release from Loyola that the public does not hear much about the risks of drinking and walking. “Alcohol impairs your physical ability to walk and to drive,” he said. “It impairs your judgment, reflexes and coordination.” Dr. Esposito is especially interested in raising awareness about the dangers of walking and drinking because he had a cousin who was killed while he was walking home from a New Year’s party. The driver of the car was sober; Dr. Esposito’s cousin was walking in the street and was wearing dark colors.

Anyone who plans to walk outside at night should take precautions, warns Dr. Esposito. Stay on sidewalks, cross in designated crossings, wear bright clothing, and walk with others. If you have been drinking, find a sober friend who can walk with you.

Drivers need to be aware of intoxicated pedestrians, especially on holidays like New Year’s Eve and in areas that have many bars and restaurants. People who host house parties should make sure their guests do not walk or drive home drunk. It can help to have options, such as asking intoxicated people to stay over or to call them a cab.

This New Year’s Eve, remember that it is not safe to drink and walk or drink and drive. If you do drink, do so in moderation, and have a designated walker or driver to make sure you get home safely for the New Year.

SOURCES:
Farmer CM, Williams AF. Injury Prevention 2005; 11:18-23
Loyola Medicine press release, Dec. 22, 2009

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