We imagine most of you heard as children — either from your parents or some other authority figure — that you should look both ways when crossing a street. That’s Pedestrian 101.
The Alabama Code spells things out in more detail and with the force of law rather than common sense.
• Pedestrians must obey traffic control signals (red, amber and green) at defined intersections, unless specific devices aimed at them are present (“walk” or “don’t walk” signals).
• Pedestrians must cross roadways only at defined intersections or marked crosswalks; anything else is jaywalking (and illegal).
• Drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in the aforementioned situations (although the burden remains on pedestrians to pay attention and cross safely; don’t obliviously scamper into a crosswalk after a vehicle’s tires have made contact with the yellow paint).
• If a roadway has a sidewalk, pedestrians must use it. If there’s no sidewalk, they should walk on the shoulder as far away from traffic as they can get. If there’s no shoulder, they should (a.) stay as close to the roadway’s outside edge as they can get, (b.) walk facing oncoming traffic and — this isn’t in the Code, but it’s another one of those common sense deals — (c.) reassess whether they need to be on foot in that particular setting.
So what’s with the safety lesson?
A study released last week by carinsurance.org reported that Alabama had the country’s largest per capita increase in pedestrian deaths in 2017.
The study used data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, and a survey of drivers.
Alabama ranked only seventh in pedestrian deaths that year with 2.44 per 100,000 residents (trailing New Mexico, 3.53; Delaware, 3.45; Florida, 3.12; South Carolina, 3.07; and Nevada and Arizona, 3.06). However, its rate literally doubled over the period from 2013 to 2017.
Overall pedestrian deaths in the U.S. increased by 25% during that span, averaging out to 16 fatalities a day with 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. being the deadliest time frame.
So what’s to blame?
Well, the report didn’t focus on distracted drivers — and we’re sure there were some who caused issues if not tragedies — but on pedestrian behavior.
That’s where the survey of drivers came into play, and it found some troubling details of what they’d witnessed:
• 76% had seen pedestrians looking at their phones while walking.
• 72% had seen them talking on their phones while walking.
• 71% had seen them not looking for oncoming traffic or jaywalking.
• 70% had seen them wearing headphones while walking.
• 64% had seen them not paying attention to cars pulling into or leaving driveways.
• 63% had seen them lost in conversation with a companion while walking.
• 61% had seen them acting like they had the right of way, when they didn’t.
• 60% had seen them behaving unpredictably.
• 53% had seen them obviously distracted in some way.
• 49% had seen them walking while obviously under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
• 46% had seen them eating while walking.
Those factors add up to a recipe for disaster, especially since pedestrian vs. vehicle is an inherently unfair fight.
We’ve said this about drivers and it’s a valid message for pedestrians, too. Get your eyes off your phones, your minds on your surroundings and obey the law, and you’ll improve your odds of safely getting to your destination.