Drivers have big role in highway safety

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Just a few days ago, the canal that runs alongside Airline Highway claimed another life.

All across our state, there are roadways and railroad crossings that handle far more traffic than when they were built.

Think about the time when there was no I-10 or I-55 and motorists struck out on Highway 90 or 51 or 61 … a two-lane concrete roadway handling the traffic of the day.

Airline is one of those roadways and, even though it has been widened to handle the traffic flow, what else has been done to make it safer?

We already know a vehicle can wind up in the canal, don’t we, so there’s nothing in place to help prevent that.

We have thousands and thousands of vehicles on our roadways today and everything that can be done to make them safer should be done. Still, there’s no way to account for the human factor — someone taking their eyes off the road “just for a second” or someone fiddling with the radio controls.

Highway safety can be engineered only so far.

Consider our railroad crossings. Trains today move more quickly — and quietly — than ever before. A typical locomotive is about 60 feet long, 10 feet wide and 15 feet or so from top to bottom. It weighs as much as 435,000 pounds and it, despite a 5-chime Nathan airhorn at 144 decibels, it’s next to impossible to hear one coming when it is competing with closed windows, a radio, airconditioning, a cell phone and conversation.

That’s why ALL railroad crossings in Louisiana either need automatic gates or need to be closed.

DOTD can only do so much. The rest — the paying attention and driving safely part — is up to us.