Strengthen Louisiana's traffic laws

The Daily World

Gannett newspaper network in Louisiana: Alexandria, Lafayette, Opelousas, Monroe, and Shreveport

Strengthen Louisiana's traffic laws

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety have given Louisiana high marks for progress in enacting key highway safety laws. Only 15 states have made progress, the group says.

The organization wants federal officials to pressure states to enact 15 laws on teenage driving, impaired driving, seat belts and motorcycles. Officials of the group say enacting and enforcing the laws would reduce highway deaths.

The group, which lists itself as a representative of consumer health, safety and insurance interests, praised Louisiana for laws dealing with seat belts, sobriety checkpoints and ignition interlock devices.

Also, credit was given for parts of laws dealing with how teenagers get driver's licenses and with booster seats from children.

Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, said he is pleased by the high ranking, but cited shortcomings such as the need for tougher laws on nighttime driving and passenger rules for new drivers.

The state also needs stronger open container regulations and penalties for repeat drunken drivers.

A similar study last year by the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) showed Louisiana doing well on eight points of a 13-point evaluation of highway safety laws.

ENA rated the states on seat belt use, driver's license, motorcycle and other laws.

Louisiana ranked well on its seat-belt law, and an ignition interlock requirement for some drunken drivers.

The organization faulted the state, however, for not requiring booster seats for children up to age 8, failure to require new drivers to have 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving, and opting not to prohibit certain new drivers from carrying more than one passenger under the age of 20.

Apparently tough laws represent only part of the state's traffic needs.

Frank Moretti, spokesman for The Road Information Program (TRIP), a national transportation research group, says some states have problems with traffic congestion and bridge conditions, while other states are plagued by funding shortages, highways riddled with potholes and increasing road fatalities.

Moretti said he would be hard-pressed to find a state facing all those challenges.

He did note one exception. Yes, it was Louisiana.

"Louisiana really faces challenges on all fronts in terms of upgrading its transportation system," said Moretti.

According to TRIP, Traffic fatalities in Louisiana are 40 percent higher than the national average, partly because of road conditions.

Thus, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, ENA and TRIP all pinpoint factors that contribute to Louisiana's poor ranking in highway safety. Despite good things listed, we continue to rank among the 10 worst states for traffic accidents and fatalities. The organizations have cited ways to improve the situation. We hope the state Legislature uses them as guides when addressing the state's traffic problems.

 

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