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What is drink walking and what’s a drink walker?

A drink walker is a person who is walking home drunk. It’s most commonly seen on Friday and Saturday nights near bars and pubs and with males aged 18-30. Many pedestrian fatalities involve people who are under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Being drunk affects a person’s ability to:

  • Judge the speed and distance of approaching vehicles (this is made more difficult by the fact it’s nighttime)
  • Hear approaching vehicles (alcohol reduces our hearing ability, as well as the kind of loud venues where alcohol is consumed)
  • Move quickly (drunk people have worse coordination and are more likely to fall).

Wellington City Council made the following public awareness video which focuses on distractions, but there’s a general lack of campaigns focusing on drunk walking and more focus on drink driving ad campaigns by NZTA.

What can be done about drink walking?

  • Traffic calming measures that reduce the speed of traffic where there are a lot of licenced venues can reduce the risk of a fatal accident.
  • Pedestrian fencing can help control where drunk people enter roads.
  • Making areas with a high density of bars into pedestrian zones or mixed use zones reduces vehicle speeds to a walking pace or eliminates vehicles altogether.
  • Lock-out policies whereby bars don’t let people in who are already drunk reduces the overall alcohol consumption and reduces movement between bars.
  • Coordinated efforts by transport authorities to make public transport and taxis viable and available.
  • Encouraging people to walk in a group rather than alone.

Drugged walking

Drugged walking is similar to drink walking for some drugs. Drugs that cause tiredness, lack of coordination and lethargy cause similar results to alcohol use. Drugs that hype a person up can still cause dangers because people make rash decisions or think they are invincible.

How can you drive around drunk walkers?

  • Keep a look out for people who are stumbling or staggering along the pavement, and especially those who are also using a cellphone.
  • Assume that any time you’re driving near a pub or bars that there will be drunk people around.
  • Assume that drunk walkers could be walking on unlit streets if you are near a pub in a rural area and that occasionally people fall asleep on the road and get run over. Sometimes they are lucky, though.
  • Slow down – your best chance of stopping is if you are already going slowly.
  • Avoid areas with a high concentration of bars on Friday and Saturday night if possible.
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Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

Posted in Advice
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