Sep 29, 2009 4:08 PM by sleonard
BATON ROUGE-Traffic deaths and injuries in Louisiana in 2008 took the sharpest decline in 15 years, Louisiana safety officials announced today.
In 2008, 913 people were killed in Louisiana traffic crashes, an 8.2 percent decline from the previous year, according to the 2008 Louisiana Traffic Records Data Report. A total of 75,883 people were injured in crashes last year, a 3.8 percent decline from 2007.
The recently completed annual traffic report for 2008 was compiled under direction of Helmut Schneider, PhD. of the Highway Safety Research Group of LSU's E.J. Ourso College of Business. The research is funded by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.
"It is encouraging to see the decline in traffic deaths and injuries in Louisiana but we still have work to do because just one death is too many," said Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of Louisiana State Police. "Law enforcement must continue to embrace partnerships, share resources, be proactive in our enforcement efforts and committed to education and prevention. Together we can change the driving culture in Louisiana to one that is safety conscious and responsible."
Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, said exact causes of the declines are difficult to identify but that a number of factors could have contributed to the improvements. He said the weakened national economy, high gas prices, changes in driving behaviors, stricter laws, increased enforcement by State Police and local agencies, and safety programs conducted by the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission could be contributing factors.
The Commission provides grants to State Police and local agencies to conduct special patrols and checkpoints dedicated to DWI and seat belt enforcement. In recent years, the Commission has also increased advertising and other education programs directed toward younger drivers.
"The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission oversees a wide range of programs designed to reduce highway deaths and injuries through increased enforcement and public education," LeBlanc said. "We are especially pleased that some of the more dramatic improvements occurred in areas in which we placed strong emphasis, such as teen drivers. Enforcement and education is a proven means to change driver behavior and the LHSC knows this is only achievable through collaboration with other state agencies, local governments, non-profit organizations, and community outreach groups."
Schneider said strong declines occurred in crashes involving 18-20-year-old drivers and in crashes in rural parishes. Over the years, young drivers and rural parishes in Louisiana have experienced above average crash and fatality rates. Drivers ages 18-20 involved in fatal crashes declined by 34 percent in 2008. That age group also experienced a decline in alcohol-related crashes. Rural parishes with less than 10,000 licensed drivers had a 38 percent decline in fatalities.
"This is the first time in 15 years that we can report something really positive happening," Schneider said. "We experienced declines in almost all crash categories. This is really a positive development."
Schneider estimated in his report that traffic crashes in 2008 cost Louisiana citizens $6.43 billion, or $2,264 for every licensed driver in the state.
Other statistics in the 2008 data report include:
Alcohol-related fatalities accounted for 49 percent of all crash deaths in Louisiana, the same percentage as in 2007.
Female driver fatalities declined by 20 percent.
Pickup trucks had a decline of 19 percent in fatal crashes.
Crashes on Interstate highways fell by 17 percent.
Over 85 percent of driver fatalities involved lack of seat belt use, alcohol or aggressive driving.
Authorities made 24,736 DWI arrests in 2008.
Sixty-four percent of drivers killed were not wearing a seat belt.
Motorcycle deaths declined by 9.1 percent in 2008.
A person is killed in a crash in Louisiana every 9 hours, 37 minutes, 11 seconds.
Additional details about the 2008 Traffic Records Data Report can be viewed at the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission Web site, http://lahighwaysafety.org, or at the Highway Safety Research Group Web site, http://lhsc.lsu.edu.