Just as drinking and driving can be deadly, so can drinking and walking. More than a third of the pedestrians killed in 2011 had blood-alcohol levels above the legal limit for driving, according to new government data.
Thirty-five percent of those killed, or 1,547 pedestrians, had blood-alcohol levels of 0.08 or higher, the legal limit for driving, according to data reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration by state highway departments.
John Gleason, spokesman for the Utah Department of Transportation, said it's not a requirement in Utah to test the blood-alcohol levels of victims in auto-pedestrian accidents.
Although officers can order toxicology tests if they suspect impairment, the lack of that requirement means hard numbers on the intoxication levels of Utah pedestrians hit by vehicles are not available.
Even lacking those numbers, however, studies indicate Utah is a hazardous state for pedestrians.
According to a 2006 report, the Ogden-Salt Lake City area ranked as the 31st-most-dangerous in the nation for pedestrians. And from 2010 through 2012, 90 pedestrians were killed by vehicles in Utah, according to Utah Department of Public Safety statistics.
Layton Police Lt. Shawn Horton said the city's officers encounter intoxicated people on a regular basis. Officers try to determine if those people are a danger to themselves and often arrange rides home for them or, in severe cases, arrest them for public intoxication.
But in the end, he said, the responsibility of ensuring safety rests with those who choose to drink.
"If you consume alcohol, it's up to you, as a responsible adult, to know the level of impairment you're at."
Davis County Sheriff's Sgt. Susan Poulsen said the agency doesn't deal with many auto-pedestrian accidents. However, over the last year, it has dealt with just eight intoxicated individuals, indicating that drunken pedestrians may not be a large problem in its jurisdiction.
Still, Poulsen encourages pedestrians, sober or otherwise, to always be alert for potential dangers. "Pedestrians have to keep aware of their surroundings, just like drivers do."
Nationally, among the 625 pedestrians, ages 25 to 34, who were killed, half were alcohol-impaired. Just less than half the pedestrians killed who were in their early 20s or mid-30s to mid-50s were also impaired.
Only among pedestrians 55-older or younger than 20 was the share of those killed a third or less.
By comparison, 13 percent of drivers involved in crashes in which pedestrians were killed were above the 0.08 blood-alcohol limit.
Overall, about a third of traffic fatalities in 2011 -- 31 percent, or 9,878 deaths -- were attributable to crashes involving a driver with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx released the data Monday in Washington as he kicked off a new effort to reduce pedestrian deaths. Pedestrian fatalities hit 4,432 in 2011, the latest year for which data is available. That was up 3 percent from the previous year.
Jonathan Adkins, a spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety offices, said anti-drunken driving campaigns may be encouraging more people to walk home after a night of drinking.
"What it (the data) says to us is that, nationally, we've done a good job of educating people about the dangers of drunk driving, but we haven't done such a good job of reminding them that other drunk behavior, including walking, can be just as dangerous," he said.
Horton agrees and said there has been a general decline in drunken drivers in Layton. But being a responsible drinker doesn't end there.
"We're seeing more (intoxicated) people not getting in cars, which is a good thing, but people have to understand how intoxicated they are. Just because you're choosing not to get in a car, you can still be put in danger," he said.
Alcohol can impair pedestrians' judgment and lead them to make bad decisions, such as crossing a road in the wrong place, crossing against the light or "trying to beat a bus that's coming," Adkins said.
"We're starting to see this with bicycles as well, in cities that have bike-share programs," he said. "People wanting to do the right thing that had too much at happy hour, and they jump on a bike."
There is no data on an increase in alcohol-impaired bicycle fatalities, but there has been discussion at safety conferences around the U.S. about what appears to be the beginning of a trend, Adkins said.
"Bicyclists are a small number of fatalities anyway," he said. "But it makes sense. For the same reason there are drunk pedestrians, you're going to see drunk bicyclists. You can be alcohol impaired with just a few drinks. It's not that you're sloppy drunk and falling over, it is just that you're above 0.08."
Safety advocates have been warning for several years that they're also seeing more cases of distracted walking. Several studies show that people who are talking on their cellphones while walking make more mistakes.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.