T-Town has seen few news stories about pedestrians being killed by vehicles. Considering the numbers of people who are walking under the influence of alcohol on football weekends and after patronizing the downtown’s bars it might seem that the community has led a charmed existence.
In a Pew Stateline article “Walking Drunk Can Be Deadly” Jenni Bergal reported:
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.
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.
Doubtlessly, the University of Alabama’s policy on drinking expresses a concern over the consequences of students consuming alcohol:
The University recognizes that alcohol in and of itself is not an illegal substance, however, the abuse and misuse of alcohol and other drugs can cause significant harm to individuals and/or groups, the University community and the community at large. The University values a safe and welcoming community.
Individuals under 21 years of age are not permitted to consume alcohol or be in possession of alcohol. Alcohol paraphernalia (which includes but is not limited to: empty beer cans or bottles, shot glasses, etc.) are prohibited and considered a violation of policy. Individuals over the age of 21 may consume alcohol in designated areas on campus in a safe and responsible manner.
Many of the students who are involved with law enforcement in T-Town are minors who have been in bars. Yet it seems that the only students who make the headlines over altercations in bars are athletes.
A student who was chased down the street by police officers from Innisfree Irish Pub after being involved in a fight was eventually drug off a roof of a house in Tuscaloosa’s Historical District. He received no publicity. He was an under-aged drinker who ended up the drunk tank but not in the newspaper. Residents of the area who live near T-Town’s downtown have told all sorts of horror stories involving inebriated students who have caused property damage and invaded their homes.
When there is an incident reported of a pedestrian being killed in T-Town by a vehicle, the details about the victim’s age and sobriety are not part of the story.
Tuscaloosa has a Downtown Entertainment District where pedestrians may openly carry alcoholic beverages on certain days during certain hours. The city must have had considered the cost of law enforcement before establishing the district. As yet no injuries of pedestrians in traffic have made the headlines.
The article by Jenni Bergal dealt with how to prevent pedestrian deaths that are related to drinking:
There aren’t many educational campaigns alerting people about the risk of alcohol impairment when walking or bicycling, the study found, and more research is needed to figure out how to prevent such deaths.
Among the [Insurance Institute for Highway Safety] study’s recommendations: lowering speed limits, improving roadway lighting, and marketing ride-hailing services to pedestrians and bicyclists, just as they do for drivers who have had too much to drink.
Safety experts say states also need to broaden their anti-drunken-driving campaigns to encourage pedestrians and bicyclists to opt for alternatives after heavy drinking.
Some pedestrian advocates caution that officials need to be careful not to send out a message that blames the victims, who have tried to do the right thing by not getting behind the wheel when they’ve had too much to drink.
Instead, the priority should be on designing safer roadways, which will influence drivers’ behavior and curb speeds where people are walking, said Brendan Kearney, a spokesman for WalkBoston.
Adkins said that while drivers and pedestrians have a shared responsibility to minimize risks, roads should be re-engineered to include pedestrian medians, barriers and bridges to create a safe system for pedestrians and drivers.
Perhaps the City of Tuscaloosa should modify its Entertainment District to accommodate pedestrians who are endangered by alcohol consumption?
Stronger enforcement of the laws against alcohol sales to minors, many of whom are students, would be in keeping with the University of Alabama’s policies. This would also result in far fewer pedestrians who are impaired by alcohol consumption.