May is National Bicycle Safety Month

Louisiana mom shares Jamey’s story to further bicycle safety

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Jamey LeBlanc

May 18, 2023 - Jamey LeBlanc, a smart, curious 14-year-old boy who was enamored with numbers and loved a good joke, was a high school freshman in 1994.

“He probably would have been an engineer of some sort, maybe working for NASA,” said his mother, Ruth LeBlanc, who still lives in the same Baton Rouge house where she and her husband raised three children.

One February evening, Jamey tried to cross a busy, two-lane road on his bicycle to get to a convenience store. Jamey was not wearing a helmet when the car hit him. He died three days later of a head injury.

Nearly 30 years later, Ruth thinks of Jamey daily, especially when she sees children in the neighborhood riding bicycles without helmets.

“To this day, I will stop my car and tell kids, ‘You need to wear a helmet when you are on your bike,’” Ruth said. “I tell the moms that, too. They say, ‘Oh, she’s just riding on the driveway,’ or something like that. I tell them, ‘That driveway is just as hard as the highway.’”

During May, National Bicycle Safety Month, the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission is sharing Jamey’s story to remind all bicycle riders to take precautions when riding a bike, including always wearing a helmet.

In 2021, 35 bicyclists were killed on Louisiana roads, and over 500 people were injured in crashes involving bicycles. That tops the previous record of 34 deaths in 2020, according to data from the Center for Analytics and Research in Transportation Safety at LSU. Preliminary statistics from 2022 show bicycle deaths continue to climb in Louisiana.

“This tragic rise in bicycle fatalities is a reflection of a dramatic increase in the number of bicyclists on the road since the pandemic,” LHSC Executive Director Lisa Freeman said. “There are some basic safeguards that bicyclists and car drivers should take.”

For motor vehicle drivers, understand that bicycles have a right to be on non-interstate roads. Louisiana law states that drivers of motor vehicles, “when overtaking and passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on the roadway, shall exercise due care while passing the bicycle, and shall leave a safe distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three feet” of space on the road. Drivers should only pass bicycles as they would any other vehicle – when it’s safe to move into an adjacent lane.

Bicyclists have a right to use the road, but they also have the same responsibilities as motor vehicle drivers. Bicyclists must ride on the right side of the road, and they must obey all traffic laws, including coming to a full stop at stop signs.

Because they are vulnerable road users, bicyclists should take extra precautions in addition to always wearing a helmet. Make sure all tires are properly inflated, check that the brakes are working, and always watch for road hazards such as potholes and loose gravel.

One of the biggest mistakes bicyclists make concerns visibility. Bicyclists should exercise additional caution when riding at night. Obey the local bicycle lighting laws, and wear white or bright, reflective clothing to be more easily seen.

Ruth LeBlanc still doesn’t know why her son chose to ride his bike to the convenience store after dark, but she believes his lessened visibility may have contributed to the crash.

“It distresses me today when I see people on bikes in dark clothes in the early evening and at night,” she said. “You just can’t see them.”

Ruth still mourns losing Jamey, who would have turned 44 this month, but she remembers with pride that six of his organs were donated to help others. She also welcomes the opportunity to share Jamey’s story to make bicycling safer for everyone.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has more information on safe biking practices and more tips for motor vehicle drivers on its bicycle safety page.

For more information, contact:

Gregory Fischer

Public Information Officer

DPS – Louisiana Highway Safety Commission


Mark Lambert


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