State’s traffic laws, roads rank poorly

Flore Roger Guillot
December 2, 2008
Dec. 4
December 4, 2008

Louisiana did well on eight points of a 13-point evaluation of highway safety laws. The ranking was by the Emergency Nurses Association, which lays claim to being the sole voice of emergency nursing and care.

ENA rated the states on laws dealing with seat belts, driver’s licenses, motorcycles and more.

Oregon and Washington State won perfect scores. At the bottom was Arkansas, which met only three of ENA’s criteria.

Louisiana ranked well on its seat-belt law, mandatory motorcycle safety helmet requirement and an ignition interlock requirement for some drunken drivers.

The organization faulted the state, however, for not requiring booster seats for children up to age 8, failure to require new drivers to have 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving, and opting not to prohibit certain new drivers from carrying more than one passenger under the age of 20.

While Louisiana could benefit greatly by improvements in the categories ranked by ENA, there are problems beyond those that concern the professional nurses’ organization. The traffic infrastructure, for instance, is a major concern of safety groups.

Possibly the broadest overview of the system was reported last year by The Road Information Program national transportation research group.

Frank Moretti, spokesman for the group, said some states have problems with traffic congestion and bridge conditions, while other states are plagued by funding shortages, highways riddled with potholes and increasing road fatalities. Moretti said he would be hard-pressed to find a state facing all those challenges.

He did note one exception. “Louisiana really faces challenges on all fronts in terms of upgrading its transportation system,” Moretti said.

The 2007 TRIP report gave the state an “F” for its roads, noting that:

• Forty-seven percent of state roads are in poor or mediocre condition, compared to 33 percent nationally.

• Traffic fatalities in Louisiana are 40 percent higher than the national average, partly because of road conditions.

• Seventeen percent of state bridges are rated as obsolete because of small lanes and other problems, compared to 14 percent nationally.

TRIP also gave the state a “D” for road funding.

Louisiana faces an almost $14 billion backlog of road and bridge work, which does not include an expensive wish-list of items such as the extension of Interstate 49 from Lafayette to New Orleans.

While the nurses’ organization is concerned primarily with highway safety in Louisiana, there is another factor that must be considered. An inadequate transportation system discourages businesses from moving into the state. The ability to cheaply move raw materials and finished goods is something companies look for.

Responding to the transportation and traffic needs cited by ENA and TRIP can make our state safer and enhance economic growth. It needs to become a priority.

– The Advertiser, Lafayette, La.