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Committee hopes to reduce highway deaths

by Minden Press-Herald

Zero deaths on Louisiana roadways – that’s the goal of a statewide initiative that has northwest Louisiana communities working together to improve highway safety.

Destination Zero Deaths is the central vision of the Louisiana Strategic Highway Safety Plan. Led by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, the Louisiana State Police, and the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, this strategic plan outlines various ways safety stakeholders can make a difference in the state’s transportation system.

“It’s an ambitious goal, but it’s certainly one worth pursuing,” Ron Whitaker with LADOTD said.

The SHSP consists of effective strategies that can be implemented at the state, regional, and local level. Nine regional safety coalitions have been formed in Louisiana. The Northwest Louisiana Transportation Safety Coalition includes the parishes of Caddo, Bossier, Webster, Claiborne, Bienville, Red River and DeSoto.

These coalitions are tasked with reaching out to safety stakeholders in law enforcement, engineering, education, and emergency medical services to participate in the development of a regional safety plan, which uses the state’s SHSP as a guide.

Each safety plan will include address the problems and issues that have a direct impact on their particular region. Emphasis areas include occupant protection, impaired driving, young drivers and infrastructure operations.
Whitaker said it will take a multi-agency effort to make a difference.

“No one discipline is going to solve the highway safety problems,” he said. “Law enforcement alone can not solve this problem. The best approach is to have everyone working together.”

LADOTD reports the leading cause of highway fatalities in the northwest region from 2009 to 2013 was roadway departure, followed by unrestrained occupants and alcohol-related accidents.

Of the 740 statewide fatalities in 2014, 73 deaths were in the northwest region. While that number has decreased from 987 deaths in 2006, Maj. Carl Saizan with Louisiana State Police said it’s still too many fatalities.

“We’re in the process of changing the culture here in Louisiana,” Saizan said. “It’s going to take a lot of time and energy to make it happen. When you look at where we were and where we are today, you’ll see what we’re doing already is working.”

Part of the statewide effort is to reduce the number of fatalities by half by 2030. In order to meet that goal, regional coalitions will be analyzing crash data, indentifying proven countermeasures, developing action plans and implementing those plans.

Saizan said local involvement is not only necessary, but crucial to having a successful statewide plan.

“To see this ninth coalition come to fruition is huge for us,” Saizan said.

“We’ve needed this for a long time. Having this group up and running will allow us to achieve our overall goal that much quicker.”

The Northwest Louisiana Transportation Safety Coalition will meet again on March 10 at the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Substation, located at 2510 Viking Drive in Bossier City.

For more information on Destination Zero Deaths, visit www.destinationzerodeaths.com.

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