Ah, mon cher, but the facts don’t lie. Pick your category of worst driving habits and you will see Louisiana motorists at the bottom of the ranking barrel. Some ratings agencies have even suggested that out of state drivers make a U-turn when they approach the Louisiana state line. Here are a few of the reasons why.
CarInsuranceComparison.com’s listing this year rates Louisiana as the number one state for failure to obey, Number 5 in careless driving, 6th in drunk driving, 4th in average number of fatalities, and an overall rating of number 1 for worst drivers. Bankrate.com reaches the same conclusion that the worst drivers in the country are in Louisiana.
Road rage is front and center in the Crescent City where irate drivers have gunned down two former NFL football players recently. Former Saints linebacker Will Smith’s killer is on trial this week, while former NFL running back Joe McKnight was shot last week. Any number of hit and runs are a regular occurrence all over the state.
Let me give you my personal observations. I regularly travel each week from my home in Baton Rouge down to New Orleans on I-10, and once or twice a week to the Covington area on I-12. The posted speed limit is 70 miles an hour, and I generally go the speed limit and maybe even fudge a mile or two. On both interstates, you would think I was competing in a Nascar race. Not just a few, but hundreds of cars whiz by me zipping along at 80, 85 or 90 miles an hour without giving a second thought to how much over the speed limit they are traveling.
This past Monday, it rained in torrents all over the state. The law is clear that when your windshield gets wet, drivers are required to turn on their headlights. On a trip to New Orleans on I-10, it seemed that every 7th or 8th car, in a major downpour, ignored the law and traveled without the car’s lights turned on.
DWIs? The penalties are strict, but too often are not imposed. A driver in Livingston Parish just last week appeared in court following multiple DWIs and a host of other drug related citations and arrests. He walked away with a suspended jail sentence and a small fine.
For a third offense DWI, the Louisiana law is quite clear. Jail time, loss of driving privileges for 5 years, and the driver’s car is impounded and sold. Too tough for such a violation? Heck no! Get these irresponsible drunks off the roads. I know this law well because I wrote it and presented it to the legislature back in 1994 when I served as Insurance Commissioner. Yet the tough law is almost never enforced.
The state police, who should have an acceptable level of troopers out on the interstates, are dramatically understaffed and are several hundred troopers short just for highway duty. Under the Jindal administration, not one new trooper was hired and trained for the last five years. The Louisiana legislature, in its wisdom, can find over one billion dollars for corporate giveaways, and millions for football and basketball teams, but no money to hire more of those who protect us.
Bad driving habits are based on personal responsibility and the right attitude. Laissez les bon temps roulez just doesn’t cut it when it comes to safety on the highways. There’s a brashness and arrogance by many drivers than endangers the rest of us. More enforcement is necessary, but it’s going to take the Governor and the legislature to step up and fund a major crack down. There is a lot at stake.
“Just because you're sober, don't think you're a good driver, Cookie.”
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.com