Distracted Driving on Louisiana Roads
Acadiana has miles and miles of back roads that are dark and potentially dangerous at night. Especially for a driver who is either tired, impaired or distracted. Very often, serious single-car accidents occur on these back roads and many result in serious and even fatal injuries.
These kinds of accidents, in which a vehicle crosses an edge line, a center line, or otherwise leaves the road is called a “Roadway Departure” in governmental parlance. Data shows that every year these kinds of accidents account for more than half of the highway fatalities in the United States. In Louisiana, from 2015-2019, over 50% of fatal crashes had roadway departure as at least one contributing factor.
The personal injury lawyers at Joseph Joy and Associates have logged thousands of miles on Louisiana roads, as we have represented clients all over Louisiana. We have put a lot of miles on our odometers traversing some of our state’s nearly 17,000 miles of state highways and 45,000 miles of local roads that are used by over 2.9 million licensed drivers.
Some roads are in better condition than others. Some have better lighting. The large number of back roads, bayou roads and the like pose the potential for serious accidents if the driver of the vehicle or truck is not paying full attention.
Fortunately, Louisiana and federal transportation officials are taking aggressive action to reduce the number of roadway departure crashes. In fact, the Advocate newspaper reported in an article dated July 15, 2020 that “The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development will put some $5 million into an effort to enhance safety on 400 miles of Acadiana roadway next year.” If you are a driver in Acadiana, you know those improvements are long overdue.
According to the article, in just the last three years alone, there have 10,000 roadway departure accidents in Acadiana parishes: Evangeline, St. Landry, Acadia, Lafayette, St. Martin, Vermilion, Iberia and St. Mary. Roadway departure was involved in more than half of wrecks in Acadiana between 2015-19 and resulted in 61 deaths in 2017, 63 in 2018 and 51 in 2019.
So what can be done?
- Officials urge motorists to stay alert while driving and adhere to the tried and true lessons we’ve all been taught. If you happen to be a passenger in the vehicle, then make smart and responsible decisions about the skill and sobriety of the driver.
- Don’t drink and drive. Designate a driver if you might be impaired or too tired to make the drive home.
- Don’t text while driving.
- Keep both hands on the wheel. Activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system distracts you from the road.
- Be wary of high water. Never drive into areas that are flooded, especially if you are unfamiliar with the road. Heed flash flood warnings and do not drive into high water. Swiftly moving water can pick up and carry a vehicle away. According to the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles, just 6 inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger vehicles, causing loss of control or possible stalling. Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles.
Louisiana has developed a strategic highway safety plan to reduce roadway departure accidents with input from stakeholders and the leadership of Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), Louisiana State Police (LSP), and the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission (LHSC). It includes an action plan which its first objective being: “Reduce the potential and recurrence of roadway departure serious injuries and fatalities. The vision of the plan is to reach destination zero deaths on Louisiana roadways.”
According to that plan, weekends pose a big threat to the safety of motorists. According to state transportation officials, more severe injury crashes occur on Saturday than any other day of the week. More fatal accidents occur on Sunday. So be careful if you are driving on a rural road at the end of a long day of fishing, boating or partying.
According to the Advocate article, in an effort to reduce roadway departures, new rumble strips are planned for some roads in Acadian: Louisiana 93 and part of U.S. Highway 90 in Lafayette Parish; U.S. 167 in St. Landry; LA 92 in St. Martin; LA 182 in St. Mary; and LA 14 in Vermilion Parish.
If you have ever driven on the Interstate and happen to veer off slightly from the roadway then you know firsthand how they can get your attention. Rumble strips have apparently proven to be effective in alerting drivers to roadway hazards. The Federal Highway Administration claims the noise and vibration produced by rumble strips alert drivers when they leave the traveled way. Rumble stripes is the term used for rumble strips painted with a retroreflective coating to increase the visibility of the pavement edge at night and during inclement weather conditions.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, there are three types of rumble strips:
Center line rumble strips are an effective countermeasure to reduce head-on collisions and opposite-direction sideswipes.
Shoulder rumble strips are an effective means of reducing run-off-the-road crashes. They are primarily used to warn drivers when they have drifted from their lane. Edge line rumble strips are a variation on shoulder rumble strips and place the pavement marking within the rumble strip, improving the visibility of the marking. These are more commonly used on roads with narrow shoulders.
Transverse rumble strips are used to alert drivers of a need to slow down or stop, or to other upcoming changes that may not be anticipated by an inattentive driver. Typical locations for these rumble strips are on approaches to intersections, toll plazas, horizontal curves, and work zones.
There are enormous dangers to driving while distracted. Distracted drivers can cause accidents to pedestrians, bicyclists, passengers and other vehicles. If you or a loved one is injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence or distraction, call the personal injury lawyers at Joseph Joy and Associates in Lafayette.