Sept. 27, 2023 - The number of people who died on Louisiana roads dropped by 6.8% in 2022, the result of fewer interstate and drunk-driving fatalities, the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission announced Wednesday.
According to the statistics, which were compiled by the Center for Analytics and Research in Transportation Safety at LSU, 906 people died in crashes involving motor vehicles last year, compared to 972 in 2021.
“A decrease in roadway deaths is what we aim for, but there’s much more progress to be made," LHSC Executive Director Lisa Freeman said. “We still have too many impaired drivers on the road, too many distracted drivers, and not enough people wearing their seat belts.”
The statistics show a 23.7% decrease in the number of people killed on interstates and an 8.2% drop in fatalities involving drivers who were legally drunk. Freeman said both factors are directly tied to post-pandemic conditions.
“As pandemic restrictions lifted last year, more people were driving on the interstates to physically return to work and school,” Freeman said. “When traffic volume increases, we don’t see as much speeding, which is a major contributor to fatal crashes. Interestingly, more traffic actually translated into fewer roadway deaths.”
During the coronavirus pandemic, there was less traffic and less traffic enforcement. Statewide traffic enforcement efforts increased in 2022, and so did public awareness of the dangers of impaired driving.
“In 2022, we had an 8% increase in DWI arrests and an 8% decrease in drunk-driving fatalities,” Freeman said. “That is not a coincidence.”
While a decrease in fatalities is good news, the same four factors influence most non-pedestrian fatal crashes – impaired driving, distracted driving, lack of proper seat belt usage, and aggressive driving.
“Seat belt use is incredibly important,” Freeman said. “Among last year’s fatal crashes in which seat belt usage was known, tragically, about half of the people who died were not wearing a seat belt.”
Another tragic reality involves Louisiana’s vulnerable road user population. Although overall fatalities decreased in 2022, the number of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists who were killed remained near or above 2021 levels. Pedestrian deaths totaled 183 in 2022, compared to a record-high 185 in 2021. Bicycle fatalities rose from 35 to 44 last year, and motorcycle fatalities increased from 86 to 88.
Other statistics show:
- Orleans Parish had a significant increase in pedestrian fatalities in 2022, from 22 to 35. Other parishes with year-to-year pedestrian death increases were East Baton Rouge (25 to 28) and Lafayette (11 to 15).
- The number of young drivers (24 or younger) in fatal crashes decreased from 235 to 222 last year.
- The Louisiana State Police Crime Lab reported that 1,260 drivers involved in crashes or issued citations tested positive for drugs in 2022. The most common drugs detected were marijuana, narcotics, and stimulants.