Walking and bicycling under the influence can be just as dangerous as driving while impaired. Crashes are more likely to result in severe injuries or death when pedestrians or bicyclists have been drinking. Indiana is a modified comparative fault state. If an accident victim is found to be at least 50 percent at fault, he or she would be unable to recover compensation for damages.
Drunk Walking and Bicycling is Dangerous, Too
According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study, over a third of pedestrians killed had blood alcohol levels of .08 or above. But only 13 percent of the drivers involved in crashes where pedestrians were killed had a BAC over the .08 limit.
Anti-drunk driving campaigns emphasize the dangers of driving drunk and tend to encourage people to choose other options, like walking. However, walking home after a night of drinking can also be extremely dangerous. Because alcohol impairs judgment, pedestrians under the influence could make bad decisions like:
- Crossing against traffic signals.
- Darting out into oncoming traffic.
- Misjudging the speed of approaching vehicles.
- Jaywalking or crossing streets outside of crosswalks.
- Walking on roadways or bridges where pedestrian access is prohibited.
People who ride a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol are also at risk for injury or death. Alcohol causes psychomotor skills to decline, which makes it more difficult to safely ride a bike.
Reducing Alcohol-Related Pedestrian Accidents
More attention needs to be placed on the dangers of walking or bicycling while intoxicated. One idea is to enforce bans that require restaurants and bars to stop serving alcohol to customers who are obviously impaired.
Education campaigns have helped reduce drunk driving by encouraging people to walk home after drinking. Walking under the influence is not a safe choice either. A safer choice could be to take advantage of ride-sharing services, such as Lyft or Uber to ensure safety when under the influence.
Who’s at Risk?
IIHS researchers performed a five-year study to determine the characteristics that link alcohol-impaired bicyclists and pedestrians. In this study, it was found that the number of fatalities for pedestrians and bicyclists under the influence has decreased. However, the fatality rates have not fallen as much as fatalities related to drunk driving.
Most at risk for fatal injuries out of the pedestrian accidents studied were males and pedestrians between 21 and 49 years of age. More pedestrians under the influence are killed at night with 60 percent having BACs of .08 percent or higher.
Bicyclists under the influence who are involved in fatal accidents are also more likely to be male. More alcohol-related bicycle accidents occur at night. The age group most likely to be fatally injured in an alcohol-related accident are males between the ages of 30 to 49.
Indiana Pedestrian and Driver Laws
Pedestrians and bicyclists are required obey all Indiana pedestrian laws. This includes crossing streets at crosswalks when available and obeying all traffic signals. When crosswalks are not available, pedestrians are required to yield the right-of-way to any vehicles on the road.
But even if a pedestrian or bicyclist disregards pedestrian laws because of impaired judgment, drivers still must act responsibly. A driver must exercise due care to avoid hitting a pedestrian or bicyclist with their vehicle. He or she must use their horn to warn the pedestrian and stop to prevent a collision.
Comparative Fault Explained
Pedestrians usually have the right-of-way, but if they are under the influence of drug or alcohol, they could be partially responsible for causing an accident. Drivers, whether under the influence or not, could be at fault for not stopping if a pedestrian or bicyclist suddenly darts out in front of them on the road. The driver could be speeding or be distracted because they are texting on a phone. Either scenario could prevent the driver from stopping in time to avoid hitting the pedestrian.
When both the pedestrian/bicyclist and driver share fault, comparative negligence comes into play. For example, consider an accident where the driver is determined to be 75 percent at fault for a car accident involving a drunk injured pedestrian and the pedestrian is considered 25 percent at fault. If the injured pedestrian had damages totaling $20,000 for lost income and medical bills, that amount would be reduced by 25 percent. The amount awarded to the pedestrian would then be $15,000.
If the assignment of fault percentages were switched, the pedestrian would not receive any award through the court. A pedestrian who is determined to be 50 percent or more at fault will not receive any compensation for his or her injuries or losses. This is one reason why a personal injury attorney recommends never admitting fault if injured in an accident.