Dangers high for foot traffic in Terrebonne

Lafourche jail tax set for Saturday as inmate, officer risks linger
April 29, 2014
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April 29, 2014
Lafourche jail tax set for Saturday as inmate, officer risks linger
April 29, 2014
Blessing plentiful at area bayou parades
April 29, 2014

The pedestrian death toll continues to rise in Louisiana and, in 2014, two people have died locally as a result of collisions with motor vehicles while walking.

Both local incidents took place around 7 p.m. in Lafourche Parish.

The majority of local cases follow a statewide trend where 96 of the 122 pedestrian deaths in 2012 occurred between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., according to a study released by the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission.

The study completed in 2012 indicates a 15-year high for the highest recorded number of pedestrian deaths since 1997 when 138 people were killed.

“Many pedestrian deaths occur under similar conditions to crash deaths involving only vehicles,” said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. “In both types of deaths, factors often involve alcohol, evening hours and weekends.”

On Feb. 11, Jennifer Landreneaux of Larose walked south on La. Highway 657 in Larose when she walked into the path of a 1999 Chevrolet Blazer driven by William McDonald of Waynesboro, Mississippi. The crash took place shortly after 7:30 p.m.

McDonald was not injured in the crash, submitted to a breath test and was cleared of any alcohol involvement. Landreneaux was pronounced dead at the scene, and the Lafourche Parish Coroner’s Office reported she did not have any alcohol in her system, but tested positive for drugs.

Leblanc believes many pedestrian deaths are avoidable.

Deputy Brennan Matherne, public information officer with the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office, agreed and said when examining most pedestrian incidents, there is often something that distracts the person driving or walking.

“If you are walking impaired, I would treat that the same as if I was driving,” he said. “I would not walk along a highway if I felt I was not comfortable driving a car.”

On Feb. 23, Kenneth Hughes of Raceland attempted to cross La. Highway 1, north of U.S. Highway 90, in Raceland, when he walked into the path of a 2009 Ford F-150 driven by Candy Baudoin of Lockport. The crash took place shortly before 7 p.m., and Hughes wore dark clothing in an area where there was dim lighting.

Baudoin was not injured in the crash, submitted to a breath test and was cleared of any alcohol involvement. Hughes was pronounced dead at the scene and toxicology reports from the Lafourche Parish coroner indicate he was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Trooper Evan Harell, with Louisiana State Police Troop C, said pedestrians should be aware of their surroundings and remember to wear bright and reflective clothing when walking or bicycling at night.

“Pedestrians should always walk against traffic,” Harell said, reminding walkers to use sidewalks where they are available.

Along with the increase in fatalities, the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission study reported 1,343 pedestrians were injured in Louisiana in 2012.

Matherene said the average driver in Lafourche Parish does not expect to see a pedestrian along the highway, but reminds drivers to be vigilant on roadways.

He added most of the pedestrian traffic areas in Lafourche Parish are in residential locations.

Don Edwards, public works director for Lafourche Parish, said there have been recent improvements to sidewalks along La. Highway 1 in Galliano, but “there is no plan for connecting sidewalks” in the future.

The Lafourche Parish Council adopted a comprehensive plan at an April meeting that includes enhancements such as trails, and Edwards said the plan can be amended in the future to include the construction of sidewalks.

“It would take a comprehensive plan to really come up with sidewalks,” he said. “It’s just not something you can do in sections.”

Rudynah Capone, transportation safety coordinator with South Central Planning & Development Commission, said the approach to sidewalk availability and construction is data driven.

“If a roadway segment has a certain number of crashes or fatalities during a certain period of time that is over the statewide average then that is something we consider,” Capone said.

South Central Planning and Development has a regional bicycle and pedestrian plan, which outlines proposed sidewalk and bike facility improvements in the South Central region. With that, safety and connectivity are the primary vision, particularly the lack of sidewalks for students who walk and bike to school.

South Central Planning’s bicycle and pedestrian efforts focus on areas where there is potential to transform shoulders into defined sidewalks or shared bike lanes.

Capone’s advice to pedestrians is, “Be very attentive with the traffic signals and cars around you, but you just can’t rely on those because some motorists do not always pay attention.”

In 2012, there were three pedestrian related deaths in Terrebonne Parish, and only one in Lafourche Parish, according to information provided by Troop C. In 2013, there were two pedestrian deaths in Terrebonne Parish, while there were three in Lafourche Parish.

One of the more recent pedestrian deaths in Terrebonne Parish occurred at 7 a.m. on July 16, 2013 when Guy Cheramie of Thibodaux struck Nicholas Shaw, also of Thibodaux, as he walked on the shoulder of La. Highway 20.

A breath test determined Cheramie was under the legal limit and impairment was not suspected for Shaw.

Almost $3 million worth of sidewalk projects are being considered by the state Department of Transportation in Terrebonne through the Transportation Enhancement Program.

Jeanne Bray, capital projects administrator, said two projects along La. Highway 24 are being designed to provide sidewalks from Linda Ann Drive to Marietta Place near the La. Highway 90 crossing in Gray. Additional sidewalks would extend from Marietta Place to Royce Street.

“You have to meet certain criteria with the transportation enhancement grants,” Bray said. “We have to pick sidewalk projects that were near schools and had to connect them with existing sidewalks.”

As for sidewalks near busy thoroughfares with increasing economic development, Bray said, “There is always consideration but we have to pinpoint what the grant is looking for with the area we’re looking at.”

A jogger runs down Main Street in Downtown Houma, one of the few areas along the street where there are defined sidewalks.