A new highway-safety survey shows some areas of concern and a few reasons for optimism about Louisiana’s roads and drivers.

The Highway Safety Research Group, part of the LSU School of Business, released the study earlier this week.

Some of the numbers tell us that we might be headed in the right direction, but others seem to say that we’ve leveled off in the areas we were once hoping to improve.

For instance, the number of fatal crashes on Louisiana’s interstates decreased by 4.7 percent from 2016 to 1017.

At the same time, though, our collective percentage of seat-belt use has remained about the same in the past three years, hovering around 87 percent. That suggests, perhaps, that around 13 percent of Louisiana’s drivers are steadfastly refusing to take a common sense and life-saving precaution when they get behind the wheel.

Similarly, the total number of highway deaths last year was 771, up slightly from 2016.

Even one death on our roads is too many. But when we think about needlessly losing hundreds of people a year, this becomes a heart-breaking statistic that should force all of us to reassess our habits while driving.

Some of the problem lies in education. Letting people know the huge advantage of wearing a seat belt can affect their tendency to put them on when they are on the road.

And education people about the dangers – both physical and legal – of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can lead to more people adopting safer behaviors.

But if the statistics show that the improvements have hit a plateau, that could mean we have to change our approach to talking people into doing the right thing.

We as a society are already spending time and money on public education. And our law enforcement professionals spend a tremendous amount of their resources on policing the roads to remove dangerous drivers.

But clearly, more or different things need to be done. We can all do better in our own attitudes toward driver safety. We can resolve to stay off the phone and refuse to text while driving – a step that would save lives by itself.

And we can try to talk others into behaving responsibly.

In the end, though, it is up to each driver to drive safely and avoid becoming part of the stubborn statistics that help to describe our state’s roads.

 

Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper, not of any individual.