Louisiana is driving towards Zero Deaths on our roads and highways and the Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) is the vehicle that will lead us to our destination. The SHSP is a comprehensive, multidisciplinary plan to reducing the devastating effects of motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries on Louisiana roadways by integrating the four E's - Engineering, Education, Enforcement, and Emergency Services. This data-driven SHSP establishes statewide goals, objectives, and key emphasis areas developed in consultation with Federal, State, local, and private sector safety stakeholders. The ultimate goal is to reduce fatalities by a minimum of 50 percent by the year 2030.
Local involvement is necessary in achieving this goal, thus the formation of nine SHSP regional coalitions to bridge gaps between the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, local governments, law enforcement, public health representatives, education leaders, civic organizations, and other safety stakeholders. Other partners include the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission and Louisiana State Police. The Capital Region Transportation Safety Coalition is working closely to implement the SHSP at the regional level and achieve safety goals of the coalition's five emphasis areas through the development and implementation of a Regional Transportation Safety Plan. Emphasis areas selected based upon traffic safety data provided by the Louisiana Highway Safety Research Group of serious/moderate injuries and fatalities within the coalition's geographic region include: impaired driving, occupant protection, infrastructure and operations, bicycles and pedestrians, and young drivers. The most recent plan is available for download below:
Louisiana's rates of alcohol and drug-related fatalities have been higher than the national average and the same holds true for the capital region. The coalition is attempting to address this through coordinating increased and strategic enforcement, as well as training law enforcement; education and marketing directed toward at-risk populations; and finding and promoting alternatives to driving while impaired. This last piece is a challenge, particularly in rural areas where there is not always viable public transportation or taxi service. Coordinators are presently researching how other similar communities have provided alternative transportation options, including the possibility of a ride-sharing service such as Uber and Lyft. While data indicates that progress has been made in recent years in reducing impaired driving, coalition coordinators are researching innovative national and international methods to further reduce impaired driving incidents and reach the goal of a 50% reduction by 2030.
This includes seat belt use, proper child restraint, and helmet use on motorcycles. The coalitions' strategies to encourage proper usage of this equipment have mostly been targeted toward increased enforcement and education. Data shows that young males have the highest risk of not protecting themselves in vehicles, so both regional and statewide coalitions intend to target marketing toward this population; in addition to incorporating ways to incentivize seat belt use. The Capital Region Transportation Safety Coalition also works closely with the Louisiana Passenger Safety Task Force to raise awareness about occupant protection and provide widespread community education and coordinated child safety seat checks throughout Louisiana.
Infrastructure and Operations
Regional coordinators work with DOTD and the Louisiana Transportation Research Center to identify road segments with high rates of roadway departure and intersection crashes resulting in fatal or serious injuries. This information will be used to determine locations for Road Safety Audits, as well as to identify physical characteristics of roadway design that lead to higher crash rates so proactive, low-cost improvements are vital to reduce crashes in other emphasis areas as well: for example, many roadway departure incidents also involve impaired and distracted driving or young drivers, and the results are exponentially worse if vehicle occupants are not properly restrained.
Bicycles and Pedestrians
In 2013, there were 357 crashes involving the serious/moderate injury or fatality of a bicyclists or pedestrians in the capital region. Strategies to combat these statistics include improving infrastructure; marketing campaigns to educate all users on pedestrian and bicycle laws; improving crash data reporting; offering design and education workshops; and utilizing Complete Streets approaches to design. Coalition leaders intend to work with local governments, advocates, and law enforcement to ensure the relationships and communication necessary to create a safe, multi-modal system in the capital region.
Teen and young adult drivers have a higher risk than other age groups of being involved in serious crashes across the United States, and that is unfortunately no different in South Louisiana. An emphasis area with goals to reduce fatalities and injuries among this age group was established with strategies that bridge gaps between universities, local governments, law enforcement, and driving schools. The coalition is working to establish community-based classroom awareness training to parents of soon-to-be drivers to encourage engaged, safe and responsible driving. The coalition is also researching the feasibility of a Graduated Driver Licensing Decal program for novice drivers. Based on data from other states, legislation to identify these types of drivers leads to a decrease in young driver crashes. Crashes involving university students often also involve drug and/or alcohol impairment, so the coalition is researching potential alternatives that may include ride share programs and after-hour bus systems.