Crossing the road

Jacksonville State University junior Breanna Dalton is shown on the Chief Ladiga Trail crosswalk on Alabama 204 on the JSU campus. Breanna is a resident of The Reserve apartment complex and walks to and from classes using the crosswalk. 

As a concept, crosswalk safety is simple. Everyone’s for it. But last week’s death of a Jacksonville State University student who was struck and killed as he crossed Alabama 204 has proven that improving crosswalk safety is more than a long-term goal. It’s needed, and it’s needed now.

This isn’t an issue only in Jacksonville. Consider:

-- In Lincoln, a 78-year-old man from Monterey, Ind., was struck and killed on Monday night at the intersection of Alabama 77 and Magnolia Street.

-- In Talladega, a man was airlifted in January to the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital after being hit as he crossed the road on Alabama 21 near Curry Station Road.

-- In Talladega, a man was airlifted last August to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta after being hit by a car on Waites Road.

- Also in Talladega, a woman was struck and killed last July by a driver on Alabama 21 just north of downtown.

-- And in Anniston, a Jacksonville man was hospitalized last March at Regional Medical Center after being hit by a car on Willett Street.

There’s urgency in Jacksonville, which the City Council seems to recognize, because JSU students rely on crosswalks to access campus from parking lots and off-campus housing. The university’s proximity to Alabama 21, Alabama 204 and Mountain Street forces thousands of students to cross those heavily traveled roads each day. The crossing where student Justin Tinker was killed is particularly well traveled because of its connection to the Chief Ladiga Trail.

This week, Jacksonville’s council began debating the available options, but took no action. Notable was a presentation by Councilman Jimmy Harrell, an Alabama state trooper, who displayed pictures of the city’s crosswalks. Harrell pointed out that lighting and visible signage at the crosswalks were poor and suggested options for upgrading the crosswalks’ lighting, which should be an easy sell for the city and university to make to the Alabama Department of Transportation.

We recognize that responsibility falls on drivers to be aware of their surroundings and on pedestrians to use extra caution when cross streets. Here’s why, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: 5,376 pedestrians in 2015 were killed in U.S. traffic crashes and nearly 129,000 pedestrians received ER treatments for non-fatal injuries.

Re-educating drivers and pedestrians alike is needed. But cities that have crosswalks in heavily used areas should do whatever they can to make an inherently dangerous activity as safe as possible.