LHSC reports pedestrian fatalities rise
BATON ROUGE - Fewer drivers died in motor vehicle crashes in Louisiana last year, but the total highway fatality rate increased due mostly to more deaths involving pedestrians and bicycle riders.
Highway deaths totaled 722 last year compared to 676 in 2011. However, the number of vehicle drivers killed in 2012 dropped to 457 from 467 the previous year.
"While we experienced a total increase in deaths last year, a close look at other statistics indicates that Louisiana continues to make progress in several key areas of highway safety," said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission.
Highway safety experts attribute most of the increase in total deaths to a rise in miles driven because of an improving economy and the sharp jumps in the number of pedestrians and bicyclists killed.
Pedestrian deaths jumped 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 deaths accounted for 75 percent of the total increase in crash fatalities.
Louisiana's increase in deaths was not isolated. Deaths from crashes in 2012 increased by 3.3 percent following six years of declines.
Highway safety officials do not know why pedestrian and bicyclist deaths increased in 2012. They point out that 96 of the 121 pedestrian deaths last year occurred during evening hours when darkness limits visibility and drunk driving is a greater problem. Alcohol use is a significant factor in many pedestrian deaths.