It's 11 p.m. on a typical Saturday on U Street and music is blaring from the glittery bars and clubs. Many of the partiers, decked out in their finest, will stick around till the bars close at 3 a.m., then pour out onto the sidewalks — and sometimes into the streets.
"I've seen drunk people wandering into the street around 2 or 3 in the morning like zombies," said Austin Loan, a bouncer checking IDs at Hawthorne, a restaurant with five bar areas and DJs on the weekends. "When you get drunk you think you can rule the world. You may not be paying attention to anything else."
That could have deadly consequences.
Whether they're emptying out of bars, going home from football watch parties, or trying to get across the highway, drunken walkers are dying in traffic crashes nationwide at alarming numbers.
A third of pedestrians killed in crashes in 2016 were over the legal limit, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That's nearly 2,000 people — up more than 300 since 2014.
"Those numbers are pretty shocking," said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety offices. "We think this is a big problem."
Being drunk can impact your judgment and reaction time and result in poor decision-making and risky behavior, such as crossing an intersection against the light or cutting across a road mid-block, safety experts say. You may not even be thinking about whether drivers can see you.
And while there are lots of programs designed to reduce drunken driving and improve pedestrian safety, there's little out there aimed at impaired walkers.
"We've done a good job of educating people about drunk driving and the dangers," Adkins said. "But we haven't reminded people that if you're too hammered to get behind the wheel, you may be too hammered to walk home in the dark."
Pedestrian deaths are a growing concern. They jumped 27 percent from 2007 to 2016 while other U.S. traffic deaths dropped.
"Most people don't realize how big a problem it is to be walking when you're impaired," said Jessica Cicchino, a vice president at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit research group funded by auto insurance companies. "You're probably not going to be putting anyone else at risk, but you could be hurting yourself."
Drivers often don't see drunken pedestrians in the roadway until it's too late, Cicchino said, especially at night, when most deaths occur. Many are in urban and suburban areas. The victims, typically men between the ages of 21 and 59, are not crossing at an intersection, research shows.