Louisiana had a record number of road fatalities in 2021

Staff Report

The 997 highway fatalities in Louisiana in 2021 topped the previous high-death mark set in 2007, which was 993.

According to a news release, preliminary data for fatal crashes and fatalities along all public highways from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 currently shows there were a total of 914 crashes and 997 fatalities.

Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development's release stated these are preliminary numbers and could change as more data becomes available or as tracking the vital statistics of the 914 crashes changes. The official numbers will not be known until the end of March.

The state recorded 762 crashes and 828 fatalities in 2020.

“The number of fatalities in 2021 is alarming and we can easily stop this trend,” stated Gov. John Bel Edwards. “The fact that there are an average of three deaths per day on Louisiana highways is unacceptable. If travelers would obey the traffic laws, wear their seatbelts and be patient with one another, we could see these numbers go down considerably. Please keep the people who died in crashes in your thoughts and prayers – there are nearly 1,000 family members who died in 2021.”

In a file photo from Aug. 28, traffic fills Interstate 10 in the New Orleans area as the state's residents prepared for Hurricane Ida's landfall.

“It’s extremely disheartening to see our highway fatality statistics soaring in the wrong direction,” said DOTD Secretary Shawn D. Wilson, Ph.D. “We consistently stress to everybody the dangers of distracted and impaired driving and the importance of seatbelts, but we have to do better. Having nearly a thousand fatalities on the road in a year is inexcusable, unacceptable, and frightening, especially when the vast majority of them are preventable. There is not one parish in the state that did not witness at least one accident. We have to do better Louisiana; it’s everyone’s responsibility.”

“With our families being our number one priority, we should all be doing everything possible to make it home to them,” Sen. Patrick McMath said. “Let’s focus on the road so we and our fellow drivers make it home every day.”

“As first responders, our personnel witness the devastating effects of motor vehicle crashes every day across the state,” said Col. Lamar Davis, Louisiana State Police Superintendent. “Although most involve damage to property, we are witnessing far too many that result in the loss of life. Troopers will continue to work closely with our public safety partners. But the goal of reducing crashes and saving lives can only be accomplished through a partnership with the motoring public. We will continue to raise awareness through ongoing enforcement of dangerous driving behavior and community education and outreach. However, we encourage all drivers and occupants to always remain properly restrained, avoid all distractions behind the wheel, and never drive impaired. Together we can make a difference and reduce these tragic statistics. Together we can save lives.”

“Two words describe motor vehicle crash fatalities: they are tragic and they are preventable,” said Lisa Freeman, Executive Director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. “While there are certain outcomes we cannot alter, roadway deaths are a public safety crisis that we can do something about. That action plan begins and ends with safe driving practices, all of which are simple as ‘A, B, C,’ and based on common sense: making sure everyone in a vehicle is properly buckled up; not driving if you’re impaired by alcohol or other substances, which include legal, prescription and over-the-counter medications; and finally, by giving the activity of driving, the high concentration it deserves and requires by not being distracted by anything that takes focus off of operating a vehicle. This is the basic recipe for reducing Louisiana’s over 40 percent alcohol-related roadway deaths and its over 50 percent unrestrained traffic fatality rate. We can, and we must, do better. Lives literally depend on it.”

Risky driving behaviors, such as impaired and distracted driving, remain the cause of most highway fatalities. According to statewide crash data statistics from 2017 to 2020, 40 percent of all highway fatalities involved alcohol. Impaired driving is operating a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol or other impairing substances.

Distracted driving is operating a motor vehicle in which the driver is distracted by anything inside or outside the vehicle, most commonly cell phone use and texting. Other distracting activities include eating or drinking, talking to passengers, operating the vehicle’s infotainment system, or any other activity that involves the driver not watching the road, letting go of the steering wheel, or not focusing on driving.