DOTD designates April as Highway Safety Awareness Month

Thursday, April 11, 2013 - 4:10pm

Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) announced today the state’s month-long campaign to promote safe driving practices, especially emphasizing the need to use extreme caution while driving through work zones.

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility, and the recent passing of one of our Motorist Assistance Patrol (MAP) employees while on duty calls attention to the seriousness of this issue,” said DOTD Secretary Sherri H. LeBas, P.E. . “It is imperative that we take responsibility behind the wheel by slowing down and not driving distracted.”

Nationally recognized and locally declared by Governor Jindal, Louisiana will distinguish April 15-19 as Work Zone Awareness Week with the theme “Roadway Work Zone Safety: We’re All in This Together.” In line with this year’s theme, DOTD will join forces with its federal, state and local safety stakeholders to promote highway safety with a number of events and activities, including an interactive Facebook campaign.

On March 25, 2013, MAP Driver Jim Gilmer lost his life when he was struck by a vehicle while responding to a dispatch to remove debris from the Mississippi River Bridge in Baton Rouge, La. DOTD will dedicate this year’s work zone awareness activities in honor of Mr. Gilmer and his service to the department.

Although Louisiana has seen a dramatic 32 percent reduction in the number of traffic fatalities through the Destination Zero Deaths initiative, the department believes one fatality is too many. According to the most recent information released, there have been 302 motor-vehicle fatalities in Louisiana’s work zones since 1989, and most recently, 13 deaths and 1,002 injuries in Louisiana in 2011. The data gathered is the most recent year for which figures were available from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

In Baton Rouge, a 590-safety cone memorial will be displayed on the front lawn of the DOTD Headquarters Building to recognize those who lost their lives in work zones nationwide. Similar cone memorials will be erected in other areas around the state. DOTD has also launched its statewide “Vested Interest in Safety” Facebook campaign to display photos of companies, employees, community members and local leaders wearing orange safety vests. The public is encouraged to participate by submitting “vested” photos to DOTD’s Public Affairs Office, dotdpi@la.gov. Photos will be proudly displayed on the department’s Facebook page.

“Workers put themselves in harm’s way to help the rest of us by building and maintaining the roads and bridges that get us where we need to go as safely as possible,” said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez. “When it comes to keeping highway workers and drivers safe, we’re all in this together.”

"Each day, our troopers witness the devastating effects of distracted driving,” said Col. Mike Edmonson, Superintendent, Louisiana State Police. “While we remain committed to aggressive enforcement and delivering a proactive safety education message, we ask that drivers do their part by obeying the rules of the road.”

“I urge drivers to stay alert and give full attention to the roadway, pay close attention to signs and work zone flaggers, obey posted speed limits and avoid tailgating while driving through work zones,” said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, Executive Director, Louisiana Highway Safety Commission.

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