Vitter discusses traffic and overall safety, Ascension Parish

Leslie D. Rose

At a safety forum hosted by Senator David Vitter (R-La.), topics of funding Louisiana’s roads, bridges and highways; improving highway safety and drunk driving preventaion; as well as ideas to reform and releive traffic congestion were discussed.

Broken into a few parts, the meeting – Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee Forum on the need to increase traffic safety on roads and bridges across our state while improving the flow of commerce – started with Vitter’s detailed account of Louisiana’s traffic issues, shown in a slide show. There was also a public comment period and a forum which included Col. Mike Edmonson, Louisiana State Police Superintendent; Tommy Martinez, Ascension Parish President; Tom Ed McHugh, Destination Zero Executive Director and Former LMA President and EBR Mayor Parish President and Donna Tate, Smart Start LA and Former MADD Executive Director.

The panel dicussed their areas of expertise and offered support to some of the public’s ideas on how to alleviate the ever-growing issue of traffic safety.

Louisiana’s highway system ranks as number 40 in the nation, and the conditions on its interstate roads are ranked 48. Last year in Lousiana there were 662 fatal crashes that caused 737 fatalities. Hazardous road conditions, alcohol-impaired driving, distracted driving, and driver-error caused nearly 45,000 vehicle crashes last year alone in Louisiana. These crashes resulted in more than 72,000 injuries to drivers, passengers and pedestrians. 

According to the national Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the numbers show that motor vehicle crashes alone have an economic cost that totaled $242 billion in 2010. The traffic congestion, which includes travel delays and added fuel usage as a result of these crashes, totaled $28 billion.

“Aside from the societal effect of these crashes, they actually have an economic effect as well,” Vitter said. “They are draining money from our economy and potential GDP.”

“I’m working to prioritize funding for increased highway safety measures and new infrastructure projects. Our families and local businesses cannot afford to travel on unsafe roads and keep spending money on unnecessary time in the car.”

Vitter also addressed the need for repairs to Louisiana’s bridges.

“Currently, our state ranks tenth in the nation in the most deficient bridges. I’ve been working on legislation that will give locals more flexibility to bundle projects together,” he said. “This bundling will streamline approval process, consolidate unnecessary paper work, and maximize efficiency to complete projects ahead of time.”

About two dozen people attended the open forum, which lasted a little over two hours. The public comment period warranted lots of community interaction as residents expressed their concerns – even giving their own full-detailed ideas on traffic and bridge solutions.

Vitter also announced the success of his proposed DRIVE Act.

“Last month I introduced a long-term highway bill, titled the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy Act – or the DRIVE Act - that will relieve traffic congestions, improve traffic safety, and ultimately increase the flow of commerce,” he said.  

He further described the DRIVE Act as a bipartisan bill for which he worked with his Republican and Democrat colleagues.

“[It] will help start the process of updating our nation’s crumbling roads and bridges.”

“I am happy to share with you that not only was the DRIVE Act unanimously voted out of the Environment and Public Works Committee, but it passed the Senate a little over a week ago by a vote of 65-34,” he said.