For the first time in a decade, the members of the Houma-based South Central Safe Community Partnership (SCSCP) expanded the program scope of this year’s Traffic Safety Summit held on September 27 at the Houma Terrebonne Civic Center. New outdoor safety demos were showcased and more breakout sessions were conducted.
Not only did the coalition partners discuss the usual seatbelt and alcohol-related programs in addressing highway safety issues, they also touched on engineering initiatives like road safety assessment and bike safety planning that are designed to benefit all road users, including the bicyclists, pedestrians and the elderly. The traditional classroom-style event evolved into being more interactive with the addition of hands-on demonstrations that taught blind zone safety, bike safety, seatbelt use, motorcycle safety, sober driving, etc.
Around 113 safety partners (18% increase from last year’s 95 attendees) and almost 15 high school students joined the summit. It was SCSCP’s goal to not only educate the partners with best safety practices and bring them all on the same page towards realizing the state’s vision of Destination Zero Deaths, it also hoped to teach young drivers aged 17 to 24 who, based on statistics, are most likely to get distracted by cellphone use and impaired by alcohol or drugs. Hence, the attendance of some high school students from Assumption High School, Evergreen Junior High School and H.L. Bourgeois High School.
Moderated by SCSCP Chairman and Terrebonne Councilman District 3 Greg Hood, Sr., the summit was formally opened by South Central Planning and Development Commission’s (SCPDC) CEO Kevin Belanger. He thanked all the partners for all the efforts they’ve been doing to keep the roads safer. SCPDC provides the staff to coordinate for the regional implementation of two safety grant programs: Louisiana Highway Safety Commission’s (LHSC) Safe Communities and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development’s (LADOTD) Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP).
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LADOTD Sherri LeBas addressed the coalition about how her department has been strategically looking at safety improvements to help us reach Destination Zero Deaths. “One death is too many,” she exclaimed. She proudly shared that Louisiana’s fatalities dropped from 993 in 2007 to 677 in 2011.
LHSC Executive Director John LeBlanc shared some important legislative updates and future plans. He said that LHSC hoped to continue supporting existing grant programs, with additional focus on distracted driving and Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS) which the Thibodaux Police Department’s (TPD) Detective Jacob Thibodeaux and Lt. John Sutton, Jr. did a presentation on during the last part of the opening ceremony.
TPD currently uses DDACTS as a tactic to reduce roadway crashes. Both Thibodeaux and Sutton expressed how DDACTS initiative saw a tremendous effect on deterring crime and roadway crashes in Thibodaux. It helped them increase DWI arrests of 27 in 2010 to 183 in 2011. This year they’ve issued 196 DWI arrests already so far; their goal is 200.
LADOTD Highway Safety Administrator Dan Magri presented on the statewide SHSP’s accomplishments and plans. SHSP’s goal is to reduce fatalities to 483 in 2030. He mentioned that the new highway bill, MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century) supports their aggressive safety agenda and increases the safety budget of $18 million to $45 million.
Louisiana Transportation Research Center (LTRC) Director Dr. Marie Walsh updated everyone that her Local Road Safety Program (LRSP) team is working with SCPDC to do road safety assessments (RSA) and implement low-cost safety improvements in the six-parish region (up to $500,000). Her team also conducted the impaired driving workshop last October 10, 2012 at SCPDC which taught the law enforcement officers techniques on processing impaired drivers.
Between 10 AM and 2:45 PM, various one-hour breakout sessions were held. Morning sessions tackled topics on: nighttime seatbelt enforcement benefits presented by TPD special operations commander Capt. Jamey Fontenot; child passenger safety updates, issues and recalls by Lexlee’s Kids executive director Crystal Pichon; and putting bike safety at the forefront of regional planning by New Orleans RPC pedestrian and bicycle program manager Dan Jatres. Held after lunch were sessions on Sudden Impact Program by LA Passenger Task Force (LPSTF) program director Bridget Gardner; No Refusal Policy & DWI Search Warrant Procedures by Jefferson Parish assistant district attorney Norma Broussard; and Safety for Older Drivers by American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) district coordinator Wade Hebert. The last set of sessions were on Road Safety Assessment (RSA) presented by LADOTD law enforcement consultant Ron Whittaker and Distracted Driving by FHWA safety program coordinator Betsey Tramonte.
Highway Safety Research Group’s (HSRG) System Analyst showed how to navigate around the crash data dashboard which was developed to support SHSP implementation. He also announced the availability of the crash fact book, agency web portal and the GIS web portal. A quick update on the South Central Regional Transportation Safety Plan (SCRTSP), which is SCPDC’s regional version of SHSP, was done by Team Leaders Sgt. Matt Trahan of LSP Troop C, Lt. Bobbie O’Bryan of HPD, and Terry Arabie of Lafourche Parish Government. The teams hoped to continue its ongoing efforts and embark on new initiatives that support the statewide SHSP. SCPDC’s Transportation Planner Joshua Manning informed all that SCPDC’s Regional Bike and Pedestrian Plan was targeted to be completed by November 2012. Included in the plan are existing and proposed infrastructures that would provide better connectivity, accessibility and safety such as sidewalks, bike lanes, bike paths and recreational facilities. In closing, Troop C Commander Captain Darrin Naquin commended everyone’s collaboration to bring the fatality numbers in the right direction.
Posted on November 1, 2012
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