The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published their most recent report, Traffic Safety Facts for 2015, and there were 5,376 pedestrian fatalities in the United States in 2015. Of that total, Alabama had 98 of those pedestrian fatalities. The University of Alabama did a study and found that 120 pedestrians were killed in 2016 and most were at fault. They found that 72 of the pedestrian deaths could have been avoided if the person walking had engaged in safer behavior. The Governors Highway Safety Association’s Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State report compares pedestrian fatalities the first six months of 2015 and 2016. The report shows that pedestrian deaths went from 39 to 56 people, an increase of 43 percent. Pedestrian fatalities represent 11.5 percent of Alabama’s total traffic deaths.
Alabama statutes have several provisions for pedestrians (for all statutory references, see the state legislature’s website). Pedestrian control signals may be employed stating “Walk” or “Don’t Walk.” While the meanings of the signals are obvious, the statute also states that if the “don’t walk” signal is flashing, only those already crossing the roadway may continue (see Alabama Code § 32-5A-33). The only time a pedestrian may ignore these control signals is if directed by a police officer (see Alabama Code § 32-5A-210). While crossing in a crosswalk, a pedestrian should, if at all possible, keep to the right side of the crosswalk (see Alabama Code § 32-5A-214). If a traffic signal is not working, a vehicle has to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians within a crosswalk. Pedestrians are prohibited from leaving a curb when he or she may walk into the path of a moving vehicle that is close enough to be an immediate hazard (see Alabama Code § 32-5A-211). Pedestrians crossing a roadway crossing somewhere other than a marked crosswalk or in a pedestrian tunnel must give the right-of-way to vehicles. Pedestrians should not cross any roadway in a diagonal manner unless authorized by a pedestrian or traffic control device (see Alabama Code § 32-5A-212). If a sidewalk is provided on the road, a pedestrian must use it rather than walk on the road itself. If no sidewalk is provided, the pedestrian must remain as close to the outside edge of the road, and on a two-way road, he or she must walk on the left side (see Alabama Code § 32-5A-215). As with vehicles, pedestrians must always give the right-of-way to emergency vehicles (see Alabama Code § 32-5A-219). Anyone under the influence of alcohol or drugs may not be walking on a roadway (see Alabama Code § 32-5A-221).
Alabama’s Department of Transportation has drafted a statewide pedestrian plan both to increase mobility and safety. According to that plan, safety is the first concern and should be implemented by urban and rural areas. In order to improve safety, the plan states that it will be necessary to follow the laws consistently, provide greater education on proper safety procedures, and create physical improvements to high-risk areas (wider sidewalks, adding sidewalks, etc.). The Department of Transportation has solicited public comments with the comment period ending at the end of July 2017.