Pedestrian, bicycle deaths up across state

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 15, 2014

By Monique Roth

BATON ROUGE – An alarming rise in the number of pedestrian and bicycle rider-related fatalities in 2012 helped to push up the number of total Louisiana highway fatalities, even with a decline of fewer drivers deaths in motor vehicle crashes.

Annual crash and fatality information is included in the 2012 Louisiana Traffic Records Report complied by the Louisiana State University Highway Safety Research Group. The report was released in late December 2013 and included information regarding all 2012 incidents.

LSU Professor Dr. Helmut Schenider heads the group and compiles the yearly data to help safety experts measure progress they are making in saving lives and to better understand the cause of crashes.

Highway deaths totaled 722 in 2012 compared to 676 in 2011. However, the number of vehicle drivers killed in 2012 dropped to 457 from 467 in 2011.

Increases were seen in other areas as pedestrian deaths rose from 93 in 2011 to 121 in 2012, and bicycle deaths increased from 16 in 2011 to 24 in 2012. The combined rise in pedestrian and bicyclist death accounted for 75 percent of the total increase in crash fatalities.

Highway safety officials said they do not know why pedestrian and bicyclist deaths increased so dramatically in 2012. They do point out that 96 of the 121 pedestrian deaths last year occurred during evening hours, when darkness limits visibility and when drunk driving is a greater problem. Alcohol use is a significant factor in many pedestrian deaths.

Local statistics for pedestrian deaths indicated that St. John, St. James and St. Charles Parishes each had two pedestrian deaths in 2012. Bicycle-related deaths were not specified in parish data.

Statistics have not yet been released for 2013, but there were several pedestrians and bicyclists killed and hit-and-runs reported in the River Parishes last year.

In December 2013 a bicyclist was killed in Luling at Barton Avenue and U.S. Highway 90 when trying to cross the highway, and in November there were reports of two pedestrians killed in St. Charles Parish.

Hit-and-run reports came from all three parishes in 2013, and headlines were also made in March 2013 when the St. James Parish Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call regarding a child being struck by a vehicle on Louisiana Highway 642 in Paulina.

Capt. Pat Yoes, Public Information Officer for St. Charles Parish, said that any time vehicles and pedestrians try to share space on the road there is a risk of accidents happening.

Yoes urged pedestrians to wear bright-colored clothing and realize that they will be very vulnerable on certain roads, especially those with sharp turns and blind curves. Yoes named the stretch of Louisiana Highway 3127 in St. Charles as one of the parish’s more dangerous roads for bicyclists and pedestrians.