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Here’s how coronavirus affected carbon emissions in every state

The pandemic is far from over, but some states are opening back up again, creating a situation where life is going back to some semblance of normal in some areas of the United States and staying eerily quiet in other places. A new analysis in the science journal Nature Climate Change sheds light on what happened to emissions during the months when the U.S. was maximally locked down.

Previous estimates of emissions reductions due to COVID-19 said the pandemic would take an 8 percent bite out of global emissions this year. This study, published Tuesday, is the first to analyze and quantify emissions drops on a day-to-day basis across 69 countries and state by state in the United States.

It found that the world is on track for the biggest emissions drop since World War II, or maybe even the biggest drop in history, depending on how long global lockdowns stay in place. (The study estimates that by the end of the year emissions could decline anywhere between 2 to 13 percent overall, depending on the nature and duration of governments’ lockdown policies.) During the peak of global lockdowns in early April, average daily emissions decreased by 17 percent compared to the 2019 average, hitting their lowest point since 2006. Nearly half of those emissions were from “surface transport,” like car rides.

In the U.S., emissions dropped by about a third for a couple of weeks in April, a development that Robert Jackson, a co-author of the study and a Guggenheim fellow at Stanford University, told Grist was “absolutely unprecedented.” On a national level, emissions decreased by about a quarter on average during each country’s peak of confinement.

Jackson and his fellow researchers created a “confinement index” to describe how locked down 69 countries were between the months of January and April according to three levels of confinement ranging from broad travel restrictions to “policies that substantially restrict the daily routine of all but key workers.” By examining six economic sectors — aviation, electricity, transportation, public buildings and commerce, residential, and industry — the study’s authors were able to determine to what extent economic activity, and the carbon dioxide emissions that accompany it, slowed as a result of which lockdown measures. The 69 countries they analyzed represent 97 percent of global CO2 emissions.

In the U.S., the study showed some major differences between states’ daily maximum emissions reductions. Washington state, for example, saw a more than 40 percent drop in emissions during its peak confinement, whereas the pandemic swallowed up just under 18 percent of Iowa’s emissions during its peak. Jackson says there’s a fairly straightforward reason why some states saw such big emissions deficits. “In general, states that are more rural acted much more slowly than states with big cities,” he said. In a few months’ time, those differences between states could deepen even more as the easing of lockdown restrictions in some states spur an increase in emissions.

Clayton Aldern / Grist

For the most part, the emissions decline will only last as long as the lockdowns. “Previous crises have not dented emissions very much,” he said, referencing the 2008 financial crash that decreased emissions globally by 1.5 percent for a year. By 2010, emissions had come roaring back, increasing 5 percent globally. “We’re forcing people to stay at home,” Jackson said. “That won’t last. If they hop back in their cars and consume at the same levels things will go back to normal.”

But Jackson says the pandemic has provided an opportunity for people to rethink transportation, at the very least. Sitting in an hour of traffic to get to work doesn’t sound super appealing after months of commuting 30 seconds to the dining room table. “That could jolt us into a longer-term drop in emissions,” he said.

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Here’s how coronavirus affected carbon emissions in every state

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Drunk Driving Followup: The Mystery Solved!

Mother Jones

Yesterday I wrote about the mystery of drunk driving: if stricter laws and harsher punishments really are responsible for a decline in drunk driving, why is it that alcohol-related fatalities have only declined at the same rate as every other kind of road fatality? Is it possible that all those laws have been useless?

I got several good responses, which confirmed that there’s a bit of a mystery here but pointed out that my data only went back to 1994. This misses the significant drop in drunk driving during the 80s and early 90s. Then I got an email from Darren Grant, an economics professor at Sam Houston State University, pointing me to a paper that decomposes exactly what happened and when. Grant’s paper, which relies on a microdata-based model of traffic fatalities, concludes that it’s legitimate to use the percentage of all road fatalities that involve alcohol—which has been flat for many years—as a proxy for the amount of drunk driving. It also breaks down the reason for the decline in drunk driving during the 80s and 90s. Without further ado, here is his chart:

There are several takeaways from this:

During the 80s and early 90s, drunk driving decreased significantly.
By the mid-90s, the level of drunk driving flattened out and has been flat ever since.
The effect of laws on drunk driving has been pretty modest. That’s the red band in the chart. Stricter laws are responsible for only a small fraction of the total decline.

There’s potentially some good news here. Grant concludes that the biggest effect by far has been from social forces, namely the increased stigma associated with drunk driving. If you discount demographics, which we have no control over, social stigma accounts for about half the drop in drunk driving. This suggests that what we need isn’t so much stricter laws, but a revitalized campaign to even further stigmatize drunk driving. I’m on board with that.

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Drunk Driving Followup: The Mystery Solved!

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Auto Execs Will Be Pleased With Trump’s Latest Gift to the Industry

Mother Jones

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At an event for auto workers near Detroit, Michigan, on Wednesday, President Donald Trump will announce his latest gift to industry executives: the start of a potentially protracted process that will ultimately weaken carbon pollution standards for cars and trucks by reversing one of the last actions the Environmental Protection Agency took under President Barack Obama.

The EPA in January finalized a midterm review evaluating the program’s progress in which EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy affirmed the pollution standards that requires U.S. car manufacturers to raise efficiency from 27.5 miles per gallon to 54.5 mpg by 2025. Now, the Trump administration wants to restart this review process, moving the burden of responsibility for determining how far to roll back standards from the EPA to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the Department of Transportation.

The proposal doesn’t change any emission standards just yet, nor does it get into the thorny issue of whether to revoke waivers that California and 13 other states have in order to pursue tougher tailpipe emissions standards—although EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has suggested he is considering doing just that.

The logic for this plan was explained on a press call Tuesday with a senior White House official who asked not to be identified. The official said the EPA “sort of shoved it down their throats in December,” when it completed the midterm review before the required 2018 deadline. “I don’t think the industry and public had a lot of opportunity to gather their comments,” said the official who directed reporters to “read the Auto Alliance testimony” from the industry in order to learn more about the controversy. This was testimony presented to the House Energy and Commerce committee earlier last fall. Though it briefly embraced the standards in 2009, the industry has since said they are unattainable, and in the Auto Alliance testimony, CEO Mitch Bainwol stated the administration shouldn’t “jam standards that are inconsistent with consumer behavior.”

The EPA’s final determination found that the “standards are feasible at reasonable cost” based on market trends, without needing to manufacture many more electric cars or hybrid vehicles. They would cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, save 1.2 billion barrels of oil, and provide net benefits of $100 billion in savings, according to the EPA’s estimates for 2022 to 2025. If they are rolled back, the consequences could be less efficient cars made by U.S. manufacturers and tougher competition with countries in Asia and Europe that produce hybrid cars. It also could mean more money spent at the gas pump—the Obama-era rules were expected to cut down on gas bills, saving American buyers an average $8,000 over the lifetime of the vehicles.

“Making this U-turn on fuel economy is the wrong way to go for our security, economy and environment,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) says. “Innovation has been driving our historic progress on fuel economy, and we cannot let Donald Trump put us in reverse.”

Further actions targeting the EPA and the Department of the Interior could be released this week, and executive orders targeting climate regulations for new and existing coal-fired power plants are expected any day.

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Auto Execs Will Be Pleased With Trump’s Latest Gift to the Industry

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House Republicans Vote to Rein In Serious Investigation of Republicans

Mother Jones

When Republicans control Congress and a Democrat is president, it’s all investigation all the time. It doesn’t matter if any of the stuff they’re investigating is genuinely scandalous or not. They just keep at it, month after endless month.

With a Republican about to take over the White House, we all expected this to come to a halt. But as usual, Republicans aren’t satisfied with just letting their investigatory fever quietly fade away. They have to take it a step further:

House Republicans, defying their top leaders, voted Monday to significantly curtail the power of an independent ethics office set up in 2008 in the aftermath of corruption scandals that sent three members of Congress to jail.

The move to weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics was not public until late Monday, when Representative Robert Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced that the House Republican Conference had approved the change with no advance public notice or debate.

This is all happening at the same time that the most corrupt president in modern history—almost by definition—is about to take office. Donald Trump has made it crystal clear that he doesn’t care about conflict-of-interest allegations and plans to use the presidency to boost his family’s wealth by as much as the traffic will bear. Republicans in Congress have responded by making it clear that this is fine with them, and now the House is making it equally clear that they don’t intend to allow any serious investigations of corruption among their own members. It’s going to be a free-for-all, and nobody with any subpoena power will ever be allowed to touch any Republican.

I didn’t expect them to be quite so obvious about this. But apparently they just don’t care anymore.

UPDATE: BuzzFeed does a good job of summarizing what this change means:

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House Republicans Vote to Rein In Serious Investigation of Republicans

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Fox News Screws Up Its Latest Lie

Mother Jones

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This post starts out in an all-too-familiar way: with a Fox News headline. Here it is:

Food Stamp Fraud at All-Time High: Is It Time to End the Program?

Now, the obvious response to this is twofold. First, they’re just lying, aren’t they? And second, this is like a headline that says, “Traffic Deaths at All-Time High: Should We Ban Cars?”

But at this point the story takes a strange turn. First, I have no idea where Fox’s $70 million figure comes from—and I looked pretty hard for it. The Fox graphic attributes it to “2016 USDA,” but as near as I can tell the USDA has no numbers for SNAP fraud more recent than 2011.1

But that’s not all: $70 million is a startlingly low figure. In the most recent fiscal year, SNAP cost $71 billion, which means that fraud accounted for a minuscule 0.098 percent of the program budget. Even if this is an all-time high, the Fox high command can’t believe this is anything but a spectacular bureaucratic success.

And it would be, if it were true. But it’s not. If you look at inaccurate SNAP payments to states, the error rate since 2005 has decreased from 6 percent of the budget to less than 4 percent. However, this isn’t fraud anyway: It’s just an error rate, and most of the errors are eventually corrected. SNAP “trafficking”—exchanging SNAP benefits for cash—is fraud, but it’s been declining steadily too, from 3.8 percent in 1993 to 1.3 percent in 2011 (the most recent year for which we have records):

So in any normal sense, the Fox story was a lie. SNAP fraud isn’t at an all-time high. It’s been declining for years. But here’s the thing: The fraud rate in 2011 may have been low, but this was in the aftermath of the Great Recession, when total SNAP payments were very high. So although the percentage is low, the dollar value of fraud clocked in at $988 million. Fox could have used this far higher number, which is, in fact, an all-time high. It’s only an all-time high because SNAP was helping far more people, but still. In the Fox newsroom, that would hardly matter.

Bottom line: Yes, Fox is lying in any ordinary sense of the word. But they’re also vastly understating the amount of SNAP fraud. Even when they’re trying to deceive their audience, it turns out, they’re also incompetent.

1SNAP = Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program = food stamps.

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Fox News Screws Up Its Latest Lie

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Harry Potter implicated in first driverless car death

Harry Potter implicated in first driverless car death

By on Jul 1, 2016Share

A man died in a car crash while his Tesla sedan was in autopilot mode, the company announced on Thursday. It was the first known fatality involving a self-driving vehicle.

The accident, which occurred in on a Florida highway in May, killed Joshua Brown, 40, a former Navy SEAL from Ohio. Traffic safety regulators opened an investigation into the collision. Tesla described the accident on its website:

What we know is that the vehicle was on a divided highway with Autopilot engaged when a tractor trailer drove across the highway perpendicular to the Model S. Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied. The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S.

Brown was an advocate for self-driving technology and maintained a YouTube page with videos of his Tesla Model S driving on autopilot. One video, now viewed more than 2 million times, shows his Tesla — which he called “Tessy” — narrowly avoiding a collision. “Tessy did great,” Brown wrote in a caption under the video. “I have done a lot of testing with the sensors in the car and the software capabilities. I have always been impressed with the car, but I had not tested the car’s side collision avoidance. I am VERY impressed.”

While Tesla recommends that drivers keep their hands on the wheel at all times, even while autopilot is engaged, Brown, according to the driver of the tractor trailer, was watching a Harry Potter film at the time of the accident. “It was still playing when he died and snapped a telephone pole a quarter mile down the road,” driver Frank Baressi said in an interview with the Associated Press. A portable DVD player was found in the car after the accident.

While self-driving vehicles have been heralded by some technologists as safer and more efficient than standard vehicles, others argue that the technology could have major negative impacts on transportation systems — including by putting more cars on the road. One study found that automated technology could increase vehicle miles traveled by as much as 60 percent. As Roland Hwang, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s transportation program, put it, “There’s a utopian vision of what this looks like, but there’s also a dystopian vision.”


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Harry Potter implicated in first driverless car death

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Stop Staring at Your Backup Camera!

Mother Jones

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Jacob Bogage tells us that backup cameras in cars aren’t really helping that much:

Backup cameras have been around longer than other car safety tech, so the federal government has years of data on their effect. Between 2008 and 2011 — the most recent years for which data was made available by NHTSA — backup cameras more than doubled from 32% to 68% of all new cars sold. But injuries fell less than 8%, from about 13,000 down to 12,000. The improvement in safety has been very gradual from year to year.

The fatality rate has improved somewhat, dropping 31% over the same period. But the sample size is small — deaths from cars moving in reverse are relatively rare. NHTSA’s research shows deaths declined from 274 to 189 between 2008 and 2011, and the number was volatile year to year.

My current car is the first I’ve driven that has a backup camera, and this story doesn’t surprise me. As near as I can tell, using a backup camera requires you to change your driving habits, and it took me a while to figure that out. The most basic problem is that backup cameras—like most video screens—beg for your attention, and if you give in to that temptation you might very well be driving less safely than without a camera. The problems are pretty obvious:

If your attention is focused on the camera, you aren’t checking the traffic in front of you. But when you back out of a parking spot, for example, cross traffic is coming at you in both directions.
Backup cameras have an extreme wide-angle view, which is obviously useful. However, it also makes any object more than a few yards away look tiny. Even cars can be easy to miss sometimes, and smaller objects like children, dogs, and so forth can be all but invisible.
Despite their wide angle, sometimes cars don’t enter the camera’s sightlines until they’re quite close.
Most backup cameras just aren’t very good. Their imaging starts out mediocre just by virtue of using tiny lenses and sensors. And it only gets worse from there. Their imaging is poor at night. Their imaging is poor when the camera faces the sun. Their imaging is poor in bad weather. Their imaging is poor when the background is busy. Their imaging is poor when the lens gets dirty.

So how should you drive with a backup camera? Ironically, you need to change your driving habits back to what they were before you got a backup camera. That is, you should treat it as simply another window. Don’t obsess over it. Crane your neck and check all your windows and your rearview mirror and your backup camera. In other words, drive just like you used to except with one additional window. Too many people treat backup cameras as a substitute for all their other windows, instead of an addition to them.

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Stop Staring at Your Backup Camera!

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There’s More to Kumbaya Than Just Getting Liberals and Conservatives to Agree

Mother Jones

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Tim Lee lists four pro-growth policy reforms that he thinks liberals and conservatives can agree on:

  1. Let developers in coastal cities build more
  2. Boost high-skilled immigration
  3. Reform copyright and patent laws
  4. Liberalize occupational licensing rules

In theory, I suppose these could be areas of bipartisan agreement. But without throwing too much sand in the gears just to make a nuisance of myself, we should take a look at why all four of these things are so firmly going nowhere even though liberals and conservatives allegedly hold common cause on them. Here we go:

  1. Coastal cities. The problem here is that this is a pretty low priority for both liberals and conservatives. They just don’t care that much, and they certainly don’t care enough to fight the nonpartisan power bloc that unfailingly—and rabidly—opposes this: current residents of coastal cities. This is mainly a local issue, not a state or federal issue, and the fastest way for any local pol in LA or San Francisco to get tossed out of office is to propose lots of new high-rise residential buildings that will (allegedly) bring tons of traffic and crime into the community, and probably drive down current property values. So the game just isn’t worth the candle. Plus, conservatives have to watch out for the tea-party crazies who think high-rises are part of an Agenda 21 plot from the UN to make us all live like rabbits in government-controlled urban warrens. Or something.
  2. High-skill immigration. There are people who oppose this—primarily high-skill citizens who don’t really want lots of new competition—but that’s not the big problem. Mainly this is a political football. Sure, liberals and conservatives agree on this particular part of immigration reform. But liberals don’t want to unilaterally agree to it. They want it to be one of the bargaining chips for broader immigration reform. After all, if they preemptively agree to all the stuff conservatives already support, they have no leverage for eventually negotiating a comprehensive bill that includes some stuff conservatives don’t support. So for the time being, it’s being held hostage and that shows no signs of changing soon.
  3. Copyright and patent. I dunno. For a policy that liberals and conservatives allegedly agree about, we sure haven’t seen much action on it. Quite the contrary, in fact. Most Republicans and about a third of Democrats just approved fast-track status for the TPP treaty, which, among other things, enshrines American-style copyright and patent law on everyone who’s part of the treaty. Once that’s in place, we couldn’t change our laws in any meaningful way even if we wanted to. And frankly, I’ve seen very little evidence that either Republicans or business-oriented Democrats really want to. They’re too interested in currying favor with IP owners to bother with an issue that will win them virtually no votes from anyone on Election Day.
  4. Occupational licensing rules. This one, finally, is a bit of a mystery to me. I agree that it’s not an inherently partisan issue, but in a way, that’s the problem. It’s also not a hot-button issue, which means neither party is really willing to fight back against it. On the other hand, taxidermists, animal trainers, bartenders, funeral attendants, and so forth are willing to fight for it since it restricts entry and raises wages in their profession.

There’s a common theme to all four of these issues: there are special interests who care a lot about them, but no real benefit for working politicians to reach across the aisle and fight back. In theory, they might have similar attitudes on these four items, but why bother doing anything about it? No one is jamming their phone lines about this stuff and no one is voting for or against them based on their positions. If activists want action on this kind of googoo stuff, they have to figure out a way to make the public care. Once they do that, they’ll have at least a fighting chance of getting politicians to care too. Until then, don’t get your hopes up.


There’s More to Kumbaya Than Just Getting Liberals and Conservatives to Agree

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The South Bronx isn’t falling for Fresh Direct’s dirty trucks

The South Bronx isn’t falling for Fresh Direct’s dirty trucks

By on 10 Mar 2015commentsShare

Another day, another tale of social and environmental injustice.

This one takes us to the South Bronx, where residents are trying to keep Fresh Direct, a popular food delivery service, from setting up shop in their neighborhood and flooding their streets with delivery trucks.

The company, currently based in Queens, dispatches trucks full of high-end groceries to residents in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Delaware. In 2012, it announced plans to move its warehouse to the South Bronx, a densely populated, low-income neighborhood in New York’s poorest borough, and as a preemptive “You’re welcome!” promised to bring with it up to 1,000 new jobs (that don’t pay very well). Company reps also told the borough president that it would give at least 30 percent of those jobs to local residents, although they’re not legally bound to that.

Here’s the problem: the company would also bring about 1,000 new trucks to the neighborhood, which is bad news for an area already home to high asthma rates and heavy industry — there’s a sewage treatment plant, a FedEx hub, a waste-transfer station, some of the busiest wholesale food markets in the world, and multiple major expressways, including the Cross Bronx, which is notoriously backed up all the time.

South Bronx resident Arthur Mychal Johnson lives near the waterfront where Fresh Direct plans to move. Back in 2012, he co-founded the community group South Bronx Unite to oppose Fresh Direct because, as he told The Guardian:

“Of course we want jobs, but we should not have to choose between having a job and having clean air. If you can’t breathe, you can’t work. Why is that not obvious?”

Between 2002 and 2005, New York University researchers attached air pollution monitors to the backpacks of asthmatic kids in the South Bronx to see what kind of air they were breathing. Not surprisingly, it was pretty bad. Traffic fumes were a big problem; some kids occasionally registered levels of diesel emissions that exceeded what the EPA considers safe (and legal).

But studies are boring! Remember those 1,000 low-paying jobs? City officials sure do. Back in 2012, the city promised Fresh Direct a $130 million incentive package boosting the local economy. The new mayor, Bill de Blasio, campaigned against such subsidies but hasn’t done much about them since taking office, according to The Guardian.

At a public hearing last November, city officials considered giving the company an additional $10 million in subsidies. Locals showed up to the meeting to raise hell and succeeded in convincing the officials to reconsider. Johnson of South Bronx Unite recalled the victory in his interview with The Guardian:

“We wanted them to hear our impassioned plea to do something different, to think about kids in this community who keep missing school and who can’t play outdoors because they have asthma.”

Still, Fresh Direct broke ground in the South Bronx last December, and last month, city officials voted to approve the additional subsidies. South Bronx Unite will continue to fight Fresh Direct, and even if the company does move to the neighborhood (let’s face it, it probably will), Johnson says the group plans to restore and greenify other parts of the surrounding waterfront.

According to its website, Fresh Direct currently has 10 electric trucks in its fleet and plans to make its trucks “100 percent green” within five years. That would certainly be a good thing for the South Bronx, but it wouldn’t negate the injustice of the company moving there now, before greening its fleet.

It’s kind of like if I were to go your house and rip up your lawn without your permission and then later decide to go back and plant you a nice vegetable garden. You might appreciate the vegetable garden, but it wouldn’t change the fact that ripping up your lawn in the first place was a dick move.

‘Environmental racism’: Bronx activists decry Fresh Direct’s impact on air quality

, The Guardian.



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Friends Don’t Let Friends Walk Drunk

Mother Jones

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The champagne’s been flowing since noon. You did the 12 grapes at midnight thing, danced to the requisite amount of Beyoncé, and it’s time to collapse. Car keys are off-limits, obviously, but you’ve heard all those Uber holiday pricing horror stories, and the train is bound to be a sweaty shit show. What’s more festive than weaving one’s merry way home from a New Year’s party, right?

Not so fast. It turns out New Year’s Day is the deadliest day to hoof it home, according to a 2005 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that looked at every pedestrian death from traffic collisions between 1986 and 2002. Nearly half of the fatal accidents that occurred on a January 1 took place between midnight and 6 a.m. And on an even more sobering note, 58 percent of pedestrians who died that day were legally drunk, according to their blood alcohol levels at time of death.

But maybe people have gotten way better at ambulating under the influence since 2002? I asked the IIHS to crunch the most recent data available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Turns out, not much has changed. Between 2008 and 2012, more pedestrians died in traffic crashes on New Year’s Day (and Halloween) than on other days of the year. IIHS also found that 59 percent of pedestrians killed on New Year’s Day were drunk, compared to 34 percent of pedestrians in fatal crashes every other day of the year.

There’s no mystery here: Drunk walkers are much more likely to engage in risky behavior like crossing against a sign, jaywalking, or lying down in the roadway, says Dan Gelinne, a researcher at University of North Carolina’s Highway Safety Research Center. “Intoxicated pedestrians frequently cannot fulfill the perceptual, cognitive, and physical skills required to cross safely in the complex traffic patterns seen in most urban cities,” wrote New York University School of Medicine researchers in a 2012 review paper in the journal Trauma.

Of course, NYE teetotalers still have drunk drivers to contend with. In nearly half of the traffic crashes that killed pedestrians in 2012, the driver or the walker (or both) had consumed alcohol, according to the NHTSA. But get this: Pedestrians in these crashes were more than twice as likely as drivers to have had a blood alcohol level greater or equal to 0.08 grams/deciliter, or above the legal driving limit—34 percent of walkers versus 14 percent of the drivers.

“Watching a sporting event on TV, you’re bound to see at least one ad reminding people not to drive after drinking,” says Gelinne. “The risks associated with drinking and walking aren’t as clear to the average person.” Freakonomics author Steven Levitt compared the risks of drunk driving versus drunk walking in his 2011 book SuperFreakonomics. “You find that on a per-mile basis,” he writes, “a drunk walker is eight times more likely to get killed than a drunk driver.”

If you’re lucky enough to survive the impact, healing from wounds becomes trickier when you have booze in your system. “Alcohol impairs the ability to fight infections, repair wounds, and recover from injuries,” says Elizabeth Kovacs, the Director of the Alcohol Research Program at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine. Alcohol impairs the white blood cells responsible for clearing out debris and “eating garbage” on skin wounds, she says.

If you do miss the last train home and walking becomes unavoidable, try to remember these tips from a trauma surgeon: Don’t wear dark colors, stay out of the road as much as possible, and walk in a group (ideally with some sober folks sprinkled in).

Better street lighting and lower speed limits near popular hangouts would help too, says Gelinne, along with campaigns encouraging bartenders to cut the taps when solo customers start getting sloppy. In San Francisco, the Vision Zero campaign aims to eliminate all traffic deaths by 2024 by restructuring high-risk roadways and lowering speed limits. Los Angeles and New York have taken similar measures, thanks in part to $1.6 million in grants to promote pedestrian safety from the US Department of Transportation. IIHS’s Russ Rader points to new car technology like Subaru’s EyeSight camera system, which automatically hits the brakes if it thinks there’s a pedestrian in your path, as a good step forward, though a tiny fraction of cars are currently equipped with these features.

Bottom line: As you ring in 2015, if you can’t call a cab or squeeze onto the subway, your best option is to grab a pillow and stay put. Or reconsider your choice of merriment-enhancement for the night. As it happens, the safest day of the year to walk down the street is 4/20. Make of this what you will.

Additional reporting by Brett Brownell.

Icons by Luis Prado and Dan McCall from the Noun Project.

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Friends Don’t Let Friends Walk Drunk

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