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Walking Under the Influence


  • Walking Under the Influence of alcohol can play a role in car accidents that result in injury or death.
  • Exploring the association between characteristics of the pedestrian, road, and environment and WUI could help save lives.
  • The researchers have discovered the demographic profile of WUI pedestrians as well as when these crashes usually occur.

How often are pedestrians involved in alcohol-related car crashes? Most might assume that pedestrians would be innocent victims in such cases, but CEE Professor Chris Cherry has uncovered data that shows how often pedestrians who are Walking Under the Influence (WUI) are the cause of car accidents that result in their injury or death.

Chris Cherry

Chris Cherry

In Tennessee, 11,309 reported crashes occurred that involved pedestrians between 2011–2016. UT civil engineering PhD student Amin Mohamadi Hezaveh and Professor Chris Cherry recently explored available data from the Tennessee Integrated Traffic Analysis Network (TITAN) to determine the role of alcohol in crashes involving pedestrians, specifically those who were WUI. His findings were recently published in Volume 121 of Accident Analysis & Prevention.

The study aims to identify the WUI share in pedestrian crashes regardless of injury severity, explore the WUI crash characteristics and compare it with non-WUI crashes, identify the groups that have a higher likelihood of involvement in WUI crashes, and finally, explore the association between characteristics of the pedestrian, road, and environment and WUI.

The authors discovered a number of interesting details:

  • Approximately 22 percent of the pedestrians who died in crashes had alcohol in their system
  • Alcohol was present in 7 percent of the pedestrians involved in crashes (but who did not die)
  • Those with alcohol in their system had a high chance of severe crashes.
  • Males were 1.90 times more likely to be involved in WUI traffic crashes in comparison to the females.
  • Pedestrians aged between 40–54 had the highest likelihood of being involved in WUI crashes.
  • WUI crashes were 50 percent more likely to happen over the weekend than weekdays.
  • Nighttime crashes without streetlights were a main contributor to WUI crashes compared to other pedestrian crashes.

The profile of the WUI crash is in line with other studies that only looked at fatal or severely injured WUI crashes. WUI crashes usually occur at night, at non-intersection locations and locations without traffic control, and are more frequent on Friday night, Saturdays, and Sundays. Additionally, the pedestrians involved in these crashes tend to be older and male.

According to Hezaveh “since crashes were more likely in straightaway sections than where the driver was turning, road improvements and lighting where drivers are not expecting a pedestrian could help”

Additionally, Cherry suggested that if Tennessee Police record the Blood Alcohol Content more consistently, researchers would be better able to identify a critical threshold for BAC that put pedestrians in danger.

This project was supported by the Collaborative Sciences Center for Road Safety, a US Department of Transportation National University Transportation Center promoting safety.


Elan Lloyd,, 865-974-8786