Lafayette Parish has the most crash fatalities on state highways so far this year, according to data provided by LSU’s Highway Safety Research Group.
With 18 so far this year, Lafayette Parish’s fatality rate is more than twice the rate of all other parishes with at least 100,000 licensed drivers. The parish has held second place in total number of crashes since 2013, with an average of 7,000 crashes. As of Aug. 12, the parish is at 4,261.
“One fatality is one too many,” said Public Information Officer Deidra Druilhet with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.
Local roads in Lafayette, however, rank as much safer, with 2,521 crashes resulting in three fatalities.
Looking to reduce local highway deaths, Druilhet told The Daily Advertiser Friday that DOTD is building a cable barrier along the stretch of I-10 in Acadia and Lafayette parishes.
The cable barrier will deflect cars traveling into the median and keep them from rolling into oncoming traffic. DOTD has installed such barriers near Baton Rouge, New Orleans and parts of north Louisiana, and they’ve worked well, Druilhet said. The barrier installation is set to begin in spring 2016.
Another way DOTD is working to reduce traffic deaths is through “Destination: Zero Deaths,” an education and safety training program in partnership with police agencies across the state.
Contributing factors in crashes this year
The LSU report is based on data collected through the year from state, local and university police. The university is contracted by the DOTD to maintain the information to acquire grants and other forms of government funding, as well as to determine problem areas in the state.
Of the 21 total traffic fatalities in Lafayette Parish so far this year, impairment from use of alcohol was a contributing factor in seven, according to the LSU report.
Four of the traffic deaths were caused, in part, by not wearing a seat belt. This is a problem in Louisiana, where about 62 percent of occupants killed in crashes in the last year were unrestrained.
The study only shows projections of traffic deaths related to cell phone distraction. However, last year, five drivers were killed in crashes caused by cell phone distraction. This rate has been declining since 2012, when 12 deaths were linked to cell phone distraction.
Speeding takes a toll
The current LSU data doesn’t address the correlation between speeding and traffic deaths. However, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study released in July finds speeding was a factor in at least 27 percent of Louisiana traffic fatalities in 2013, two percent lower than the national average.
There were 32,719 traffic fatalities nationwide in 2013 according to DOTD, and among them, 9,613 were speeding-related crashes. The number of speeding-related fatalities in 2013 decreased by 7 percent from 10,329 in 2012 to 9,613.
In those 193 fatal speeding-related crashes, about 42 percent of the drivers had blood alcohol concentrations of .08 grams or higher, compared to 16 percent of non-speeding drivers involved in fatal crashes.
Males are more likely to die in high-speed crashes
John Leblanc, Louisiana Highway Safety Commission executive director, said males aged 15-24 are more likely to die in an accident, 35 percent nationally, because of speed than any other age group and compared to female drivers.
Of the age group in Louisiana crash fatalities so far this year, 49 of 63 fatalities were male. In most age groups, the fatality rate for male drivers in Louisiana is significantly higher than females the same age, the report says.
In the U.S. in 2013, about 35 percent of 15- to 20-year-old and 21- to 24-year-old male drivers involved in fatal crashes were speeding, the highest among all age groups. Out of all crashes in Louisiana, 258 of the the 348 total fatalities this year were males.
“There’s a pattern of risk-taking involved that fits the bill for young men,” Leblanc said.
Leblanc said this pattern of risk taking crosses the board for fatalities with driver impairment and seatbelt use often being a factor on top of speeding.
Here are some other interesting facts on traffic here and around the state:
- When factoring in crashes on local roads, Lafayette Parish is second in total crash-related fatalities with 21. Orleans Parish has the most fatal roadways, with 27.
- In 2014, a fatality on Louisiana roadways occurred every 11 hours and 53 minutes.
- Connecting Lake Charles, Lafayette, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Interstate 10 is the most dangerous Louisiana highway with 55 fatal crashes in 2014.
- The second-most dangerous interstate last year was I-20, which connects Shreveport to Monroe, with 14 fatal crashes. I-10 is projected to have less fatal crashes this year, despite a climb in fatal accidents on the interstate over a three-year period.