New research shows that male pedestrians who are struck by cars are more than twice as likely to die from their injuries as their female counterparts. That’s after controlling for age and taking into account that male and female pedestrians tend to walk the same amounts each day.
The study, conducted by Dr. Motao Zhu of the West Virginia University School of Public Health, analyzed traffic data from 2008 and 2009 and found that males pedestrians are 2.3 times more likely to die after being hit by a vehicle. We’ll repeat: That doesn’t mean men are more likely to be hit by a car. It means that, among pedestrians who have already been struck, men are more than twice as likely to succumb to their injuries.
Though further study is necessary to pinpoint exact causes, Zhu already has a hypothesis: Though they’re walking the same amount as female pedestrians, males are engaging in riskier behavior that leads them to receive more severe injuries with a greater risk of fatality.
“Relative to females, males are more likely to cross roads with a speed limit of 50 mph or over,” said Zhu. “Therefore, males are hit by vehicles with a higher speed than females.” Higher-speed impacts mean there’s a greater chance of death, which explains the disparity.
In addition, there’s a greater chance that male pedestrians are intoxicated while they’re out walking. Unlike drunk drivers, inebriated pedestrians may not be piloting two tons of steel, but they still have impaired judgment and motor skills. Drunk pedestrians may be more likely to misjudge the speed of an oncoming vehicle, or stumble into traffic without looking. Drug and cellphone use may have similar effects, Zhu said, and will be the subject of further analysis.
According to Zhu, possible interventions include improving sidewalk and public transit access to that walking is minimized. Lower speed limits in high-pedestrian areas are also a possibility, as are efforts to discourage pedestrians from walking alongside or crossing highways.
And if you’re drunk and planning on walking home along a busy road? Don’t do it. “We should recommend taxi, public transportation or rides from friends or family members for those pedestrians who are drunk,” Zhu said. To which we say, “Duh.”