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Louisiana roadway deaths down, but improvement still needed

Fewer deaths to any degree is a flatly positive development, and Louisiana safety regulators are duly recognizing that fact. State Highway Safety Commission Executive Director Lisa Freeman noted to an audience last week that Louisiana’s traffic fatality rate is “the lowest it’s ever been.”

That is laudatory, of course. State administrators and safety principals duly enthuse over roadway safety statistics recently released by a research arm at Louisiana State University. Relevant numbers indicate that a sharp decrease in road fatalities spanning the state in 2019 reversed a five-year preceding trend of spiked deaths.

On the other hand, though, LSU’s data point squarely to a number that stands out both prominently and in markedly adverse fashion, even amidst the overall positive bottom line being espoused by safety principals.

That is this: 727. That number marks the number of people who died on state roadways last years despite widespread and integrated efforts to curb negative traffic outcomes.

The bottom line is this: Notwithstanding campaigns and linked initiatives to render state streets and highways routinely safe for all who use them, a high level of adverse outcomes continue to play out on Louisiana’s roads, and persistently so.

The proof of that is spotlighted by more than just the above-cited fatality number. Coupled with that is a stubbornly high nonfatal injury rate. The LSU study points to the occurrence of 10,556 moderate and severe injuries on state roadways during 2019.

Thus, and despite positive trending, Freeman stresses the need for continued improvement. She states that state safety authorities “will never be satisfied until the number of fatalities in Louisiana is zero.”