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Drunk driving more dangerous than drunk walking? Wrong

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On December 27, 2011, the Freakonomics guys had a podcast called “The Perils of Drunk Walking”. In it, they claim that drunk walking is more dangerous than drunk driving.

Now that message is going around the web faster than a cat video.

But is it true?

In 2009, 10839 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). An alcohol-impaired driving crash is one in which one or both drivers had been drinking.

Of those deaths, 7281 were drivers with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher. The remaining deaths were of passengers and bystanders.

In 2009, 4092 pedestrians died.

At this point, the numbers are clear. We don't even need to know how many of those 4092 pedestrians were drunk when they died because there were definitely fewer than the 7281 drivers who were drunk when they died.

The Freakonomics team is notorious for teasing out statistics which then get passed around at cocktail parties with misleading statements. So what are they actually saying?

It's in the podcast. What they're really saying is that drunk walking is more dangerous per mile than drunk driving. This may be true, although they didn't list their sources.

The takeaway message from their podcast is that drunk walking is dangerous. Don't think it isn't.

However, drunk driving is still much more dangerous.