Here’s a joke: What is a red light in Birmingham? Answer: A suggestion.
Jokes aside, Birmingham does have a problem with reckless & careless drivers. Whether they’re on their phone, speeding through a solid red light, switching lanes without signaling or anything in-between, these types of drivers make our city’s roads dangerous for drivers and pedestrians alike.
Without further ado, here are seven signs you might be a terrible driver in Birmingham—and tips on how you can fix your ignorant ways.
1. You drive in the rain without your lights on
Driving with your lights off when it’s raining—or when visibility is limited—is one of the more dangerous roadway sins I’ll write about today. Luckily, most modern vehicles have lights that automatically turn on when it’s raining or getting dark. However, if you drive an older vehicle with manual lights—like me—you’ll need to be extra vigilant and be certain you turn them on when visibility is limited. It might just save lives.
“Every vehicle upon a highway within this state, except a parked vehicle, which shall be subject to Section 32-5-244, shall display lighted lamps and illuminating devices required by this section for different classes of vehicles at the following times: From a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise. At any time when the windshield wipers of the vehicle are in use because of rain, sleet, or snow, except when the use is intermittent because of misting rain, sleet, or snow. At any time when there is not sufficient light to render clearly discernible persons and vehicles on the highway at a distance of 500 feet.”
2006 ALABAMA CODE (SECTION 32-5-240) — REQUIRED LIGHTING EQUIPMENT AND ILLUMINATING DEVICES OF VEHICLES.
2. You park like you’re the only one on the road
While this isn’t as much of a hazard as some of the other items on this list, double-parking is a really inconsiderate move. News flash: you aren’t entitled to more than one parking spot, no matter how much money you spend on your shiny new car.
On a related note, I have seen so many people park in area that are clearly marked NO PARKING. My favorite example is along Highland Avenue, across from Freddy’s Wine Bar overlooking Highway 31.
Finally—and I can’t believe this has to be said—if you are not handicapped, don’t park in the handicap parking spots! I don’t care how big of a hurry you’re in, those spots are not for you.
3. You stop in the pedestrian crosswalk
According to Wikipedia, a Pedestrian Crossing or Crosswalk is, “a place designated for pedestrians to cross a road, street or avenue.” Furthermore, a pedestrian is, “a person traveling on foot, whether walking or running.” So quit halting your vehicle there!
In the spirit of honesty, I’ll admit that I’ve made the mistake of stopping in the crosswalk in the past—however, I’m trying to do a better job of stopping where I’m supposed to. Please join me in keeping that in mind so that our pedestrian counterparts can safely cross the road when it’s their turn!
4. You think Red and Yellow are the same color
Have you ever come up to a flashing red or flashing yellow light, and not known what to do? If so, you’re not alone. Half of Birmingham doesn’t seem to know the difference, either. Here’s a quick lesson:
“(a) Whenever an illuminated flashing red or yellow signal is used in a traffic sign or signal it shall require obedience by vehicular traffic as follows:
(1) Flashing red (stop signal). When a red lens is illuminated with rapid intermittent flashes, drivers of vehicles shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if none, then at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering the intersection, and the right to proceed shall be subject to the rules applicable after making a stop at a stop sign.
(2) Flashing yellow (caution signal). When a yellow lens is illuminated with rapid intermittent flashes, drivers of vehicles may proceed through the intersection or past such signal only with caution.”
Alabama Code Title 32. Motor Vehicles and Traffic § 32-5A-34
Essentially, a Flashing Red light should be treated as a Stop Sign. A Flashing Yellow allows you to proceed with caution.
HOWEVER, you can’t assume that other drivers know the different between a flashing red and a flashing yellow. Even if you have the right-of-way, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
5. You change lanes without signaling
How many times have you been riding down 280, when all of the sudden a car swerves over three lanes of traffic in order to make an exit? At this point, I just expect to see the worst drivers Birmingham has to offer any time I choose to get on that godforsaken stretch of asphalt.
If this is something you do—please don’t. It is incredibly dangerous to yourself and other drivers, and at the end of the day, it’s not worth it. If you miss your exit, you can always turn around at the next one. Saving 15 minutes is not worth risking your life and the lives of others.
6. You don’t follow traffic signs
This might be a very specific stretch, but I’m the one writing this article so I get to do what I want. In Forest Park, the intersection of Highland Avenue, 33rd Street South and 12th Avenue South scares me every time I go through it. Cars coming southbound on Highland Avenue have the right-of-way, since they do NOT have a stop sign. However, I’ve had multiple vehicles coming north on 33rd Street South swerve in front of me, despite having a stop sign. The sign clearly says ONGOING TRAFFIC DOES NOT STOP—what is so hard to understand about that?!
7. You use your hazards to park illegally
I don’t have a photo, but this intersection is a hot-spot for drivers who use their hazards to park illegally.
In college, students often used their hazards to park illegally for a short period of time. And yes, I am guilty of that parking sin too. But I never imagined that it was such a wide-spread problem throughout The Magic City.
Almost every day, I’ll see some car blocking off an entire lane of traffic because they just had to run into the store and didn’t have time to find a legal parking spot. The best (or worst) example is the intersection near Rojo in Highland Park. Without fail, there will always be a car parked on that curb with their hazards off while the driver pops in to do laundry at The Sheraton laundromat.
That’s not all, folks
Obviously, since I can’t list every grievance I have against other drivers, I tried to make this list as applicable to Birmingham as possible. I chose not to list two of the most egregious examples—driving while impaired and texting while driving—because everyone already knows those are illegal, even if they don’t always follow those rules.
What are your biggest pet peeves about other drivers in Birmingham? Tag us @bhamnow on Instagram to let us know!