Drink walking: a staggering new statistic

Sydney Morning Herald

Tuesday 3 December 2002

Joseph Kerr - Transport Reporter

One in three pedestrians killed on NSW roads were drunk, according to NRMA research.

Most of them - nearly 75 per cent - had blood alcohol levels above 0.15, three times the legal driving limit of 0.05, and nearly 90 per cent of alcohol-affected pedestrian fatalities occurred at night, the data found.

The inebriated victims were almost exclusively male, with several of the most dangerous areas in Sydney's western suburbs, leading the motoring group to call for advertising campaigns targeting those most at risk.

Releasing the data last night, the NRMA's chief executive officer, Rob Carter, said 309 out of the 1008 pedestrians deaths over the past 10 years involved the victim being over 0.05.

More than half the fatalities where the victim was over 0.05 occurred on Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights, while a third of them were killed while playing, lying or standing on the road.

The worst areas were in Sydney's west and south-west. Fairfield, Blacktown, Campbelltown, Parramatta and Penrith were in the top seven suburbs in the percentages of killed pedestrians who were drunk.

Mr Carter said drivers and pedestrians needed to be equally responsible for each other's safety.

But the chairman of the Pedestrian Council of Australia, Harold Scruby said while the results were alarming, no benchmark existed for drunk pedestrians and the 0.05 driving limit was not necessarily an appropriate figure to be using.

"You don't require the same reflexes," said Mr Scruby. "You're not travelling at 100kmh."

Rather than targeting the pedestrians, he said traffic should be forced to drop to 40kmh around specific pubs and clubs, just as they were around schools.

"There's no advertising campaign in the world that's going to get through to someone's brain when they're pissed," Mr Scruby said.

Fences along the side of busy streets where patrons stumbled out late at night were also a good idea, he said.

The Transport Minister, Carl Scully, said he was unaware of the research, but he would consider asking the Roads and Traffic Authority to do some independent analysis on drunk pedestrian fatalities.

The NRMA figures also showed fatal pedestrian accidents involving alcohol occurred proportionally more often in country areas than in metropolitan ones, particularly on roads where the speed limit was above 80kmh.

WHEN WALKING IS DANGEROUS

Location of fatal accidents involving pedestrians with a blood alcohol level of .05 plus

Sydney Metro - 44.3%

Outer Sydney - 12.0%

Newcastle/Wollongong Metro - 12.6%

Other Rural - 31.1%

TOTAL - 100%

SOURCE NRMA