In March 2018, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released a report showing that pedestrian fatalities have risen 46 percent since 2009, with nearly 6,000 people struck and killed by vehicles in 2016 alone.
Birmingham is no exception to that rule: In a 2014 report of cities where people walking are more likely to be killed by vehicles, Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition ranked the Birmingham-Hoover metropolitan area sixth.
“Because UAB is located in Birmingham’s city center, pedestrian safety is of the utmost importance,” said James Granade, captain in the UAB Police and Public Safety Department, which coordinates a pedestrian safety-awareness program.
Remember these four tips for staying safe as a pedestrian on campus.
Don’t jaywalk — crosswalk instead.
David Schwebel, Ph.D., associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of Psychology, studies pedestrian behavior and explains that walking is just like driving — laws need to be followed for safety reasons.
“Drivers wouldn’t run a red light or dart their vehicles into an intersection when traffic is coming the other way, so why do some pedestrians feel that is OK?” Schwebel asked. “When you jaywalk, you are openly and blatantly breaking the law, which you don’t usually do when driving near intersections, but many pedestrians feel it’s justified.”
Plus, in Birmingham, it’s against city ordinance to cross a street anywhere but a crosswalk; jaywalkers can receive a fine and have to pay court costs to contest it.
Keep your head up and your phone down.
Schwebel said his research has shown that using the phone while walking significantly increases your risk of injury.
“If you’re on the phone, text-messaging, browsing the Internet or listening to music, our research shows that activity greatly increases your risk of being hit by a car,” Schwebel said. “Walking actually involves a fair amount of complex thinking. Our brain has to work hard to make sure we walk safely, especially near traffic. Our brain also has to work hard to text-message. It has to think about what you’re reading, how to respond, how to type. Brains can handle only so much. If we give the brain too much to do, mistakes can happen.”
Stick to the sidewalk.
“During dusk or dawn and times of reduced visibility, it becomes more difficult for drivers to detect pedestrians,” Granade said. “Using sidewalks, wearing reflective, light-colored clothing and traveling free of distractions are imperative.”
“Our central goal is to safeguard lives and serve the UAB community,” Granade said. “Together, through attentiveness, awareness and cooperation, we can continue to improve the safety of pedestrians and drivers on the UAB campus.”