Drinking and Driv…ahem Walking

25873414Two weeks ago I took my wife out on a date.  It was date night for the first time in what seemed like months.  Come to think of it, it was months.  We actually talked about the fact that we hadn’t been on a date, a real date with no kids, since our anniversary in May.  Depressing, I know, but such is life.  After way too much online “research” we decided to try this Thai place in Portland  called Red Onion. It was amazing, you should go there if you’re ever in the area.  After dinner, we went to the riverfront in downtown Portland and saw all that Portland has to offer. It was a great evening. As we walked back to our car, we couldn’t help but notice a small group of pedestrians who were standing, or rather strutting, in the middle of the street.  One guy in particular caught our attention.  He was slurring vulgarities to passing motorists as he played with the construction cones and danced merrily in the roadway.  He was clearly intoxicated and endangering not only himself, but other pedestrians and motorists who swerved  to avoid his totally random shuffle.  After steering clear of him and with his expletive-laden ramblings miles behind us, he became nothing but a somewhat comical ending to an otherwise perfect evening.

I forgot about that man.  I couldn’t tell you what he looked like. I couldn’t tell you what color his hair was. I couldn’t tell you what he was wearing. In fact, if you lined him up with four other people, I couldn’t pick him out. I forgot about him entirely. Until today.  Today I read an article discussing the sheer numbers of pedestrians that are killed each year in America. Did you know that in 2011, 4,432 pedestrians were killed and 69,000 were injured in car crashes. This means that, on average, a pedestrian is killed in a motor vehicle crash every two hours, and one is injured every eight minutes. Staggering, even for me who deals with this stuff every day.

Amazingly, of the 4,432 pedestrians killed in automobile crashes, more than a third (37%) were intoxicated. In real numbers, this means that over 1600 pedestrians had blood alcohol content levels of .08 or higher when they were killed in a car crash.

We as a community are all well aware of the dangers of drinking and driving. We hear about it nearly every day. We know (most of us anyway) not to get behind the wheel of a car after consuming alcoholic beverages.  But with these types of numbers, perhaps we need to talk about the dangers of drinking and walking.

As an attorney, I could not in good conscience argue that just because a pedestrian was intoxicated he or she must have been responsible for their death. That being said, common sense dictates that a good part of those killed would still be alive if they were not intoxicated when they walked into oncoming traffic because they drank too much.

I don’t drink. Never have. Never will. It is easy for me to stand upon a soapbox and proclaim the benefits of not drinking and the risks associated with drinking. I don’t understand the urge to drink until one is impaired and unable to protect oneself from dangerous situations–or even worse, to put oneself into dangerous situations. I don’t understand why such a mental state would be “fun” . I don’t get it. I’m not so naive that I can’t recognize that most of society does not share my view. I understand people will drink and that alcohol is an acceptable part of our society. I’m fine with that. I don’t  take issue with those who consume alcohol in moderation. Drink, Socialize. Have your fun. I don’t have a problem with responsible alcohol drinkers.

My problem is with those who cannot control themselves because of alcohol.

My problem is with those who drink too much they lose all common sense.

My problem is with those who cannot protect themselves from their own stupidity.

My problem is with those who endanger me, and my wife, and my family.

I take issue with that.  You better believe I take issue with that.

I am glad I forgot about the man who was dancing with construction cones.  You see, he was lucky. If he, like the 1600 before him, would have become a statistic, I would remember him.  I would have remembered him forever. I would remember him just like I remember the woman who was killed when talking on her cell phone (see earlier post).  I’d remember his clothes. I’d remember his smell. I’d remember his name.  Just like I remember her name. Just like I remember her smell. Her clothes. One doesn’t just forget something like that.

I shudder to think about the memories of the drivers of the 1600 motor vehicles.  I shudder to think about the memories of the friends and family members of those 1600 pedestrians–especially those friends and family members who saw their loved ones be hit by a car.  I can’t imagine that pain those persons must live with, daily.

Please be safe. Whether you are driving, pedaling, or walking, please be safe. If you’re going to drink to intoxication, do so safely. Ask a trusted friend to watch out for you, not just to drive you home, but to walk with you, to protect you. Be safe, don’t be a statistic.

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