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The dangers of 'walking-while-intoxicated'

Published On: Aug 19 2013 10:22:19 AM CDT
Whiskey, bourbon

iStockPhoto / peepo

By attorney Jason Neufeld, Special to THELAW.TV

If you live in any major metropolitan area or college town, pick any Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night and you'll see it everywhere -- people stumbling down the street, headed away from the bar or club district.

Walking-While-Intoxicated (WWI) is undoubtedly a fairly common phenomenon. Certainly, if one must choose between drinking-and-driving or WWI, the latter is preferred simply by virtue of the fact that you are much less likely to injure others while WWI. However it is not without its own very serious risks.

The Associated Press recently reported on a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study that was released early this month. The study reviewed pedestrian-related deaths in 2011 and reported that more than 35 percent of pedestrians who died in 2011 had a blood-alcohol content (BAC) over the legal limit for driving. The percentage of pedestrian-related accidents that resulted in death increased to approximately 50 percent for those in their early 20s or in the 35- to 55-year-old age bracket.

To compare:

-- 13 percent of drivers involved in pedestrian-related fatal accidents (car vs. pedestrian) were legally drunk

-- 31 percent of auto-crash (car vs. car, truck vs. car, etc.) fatalities involved a driver above the legal BAC limit.

We all know that alcohol impairs judgment. Those with liquor-impaired gaits are less likely to pay careful attention (i.e., look both ways) or are more likely to be confident in foolish endeavors such as attempting to run across the street to beat that approaching bus.

The study did not review bicycling-while-impaired fatalities or distracted walking (i.e., talking on the cell phone while walking). However, not surprisingly, other studies have shown these to be dangerous activities.

This study brings to mind the legal defense known as "comparative" or "contributory" negligence (the term varies depending on which state you are located); meaning a jury may consider your actions and award you less money (or no money at all) if your actions were negligent and significantly contributed to your injuries. If you are a pedestrian or cyclist who is struck by an automobile, you should certainly (a) immediately seek emergency medical care and then (b) contact a personal-injury lawyer who can begin to sort through these issues and protect your rights. However, if it can be proven that you were walking-while-impaired, some percentage of liability will likely be apportioned to you.

The author, Jason Neufeld, is an injury attorney at Neufeld, Kleinberg & Pinkiert, PA in Miami, Fla.

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