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Southwest Louisiana ,
(Special to the American Press)

(Special to the American Press)

Southwest Louisiana sees hike in traffic deaths

Last Modified: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 10:43 AM

By Johnathan Manning / American Press

Prescription drug use contributed to the increase in traffic deaths that State Police Troop D investigated in 2012, said Sgt. James Anderson.

Troop D responded to 28 fatal crashes in which 34 people died, up from 20 people killed in crashes in 2011, he said.

Anderson attributes the numbers in part to impaired driving, and referred to an April 22 accident on the U.S. 171 Calcasieu River bridge in which a driver believed to be impaired struck a stopped vehicle, killing a 13-year-old in the vehicle and a person changing a flat tire.

“We’re disappointed to see an increase in the number of fatalities, and we’re going to work hard to try to bring those numbers back down,” Anderson said.

Complete numbers for 2012 aren’t yet available, but of the 20 people killed in accidents in 2011, 10 died as a result of impaired driving. He said the statewide rate was 43 percent.

“So, we do have a problem in our area,” Anderson said.

Through May 2012, Southwest Louisiana had seen 16 vehicle deaths, 12 the result of impaired driving, he said.

Prescription pills account for many of those, Anderson said.

“That’s what’s driving up the numbers,” he said. “We’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of drivers impaired by pills as opposed to alcohol.”

Of the 34 who died, 12 people were not wearing seatbelts, although that number also includes the five pedestrian and six motorcycle deaths that took place in 2012.

Overall, seatbelt use has gone up in Southwest Louisiana — a statewide high of 85.6 percent of Lake Charles drivers, according to the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission.

“A lot of that has to do with law enforcement,” Anderson said.

Both pedestrian and motorcycle deaths were up in 2012 from the previous year.

“People need to look for motorcycles,” Anderson said. “Motorcycles are everywhere, and these operators have just as much right to be on the road as everyone else.”

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