BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission (LHSC) says that an increase in impaired driving, aggressive driving, and pedestrian fatalities caused the number of car crash-related deaths to rise for the first time in 14 years.

More Louisianians have been killed in car crashes last year than the highest number in 2007 as data shows 972 people were killed in 2021. LHSC says the fatalities inflated due to a pandemic-related rise in distracted driving.

In East Baton Rouge, the coroner’s office investigated 88 motor vehicle deaths in 2020 and 78 motor vehicle deaths in 2021. LHSC reported that 89 people died in the 82 crashes in EBR that were reported in 2020 and 104 people were killed in the 99 car crashes reported in 2021.

A total of 9,908 people were injured in the 6,085 car crashes in the parish alone in 2021, according to LHSC. So far in 2022, according to LHSC, 47 people have been killed in the 51 car crashes that were reported.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 42,915 people were killed on U.S. roadways in 2021.

“Driver behavior certainly changed during COVID-19,” Dr. Helmut Schneider, executive director of the Center for Analytics and Research in Transportation Safety at LSU told LHSC. “Drivers might change their behavior to be more risk-averse but that is likely a slow process. It will take a while.”

Across the state, Schneider said 174 people were killed in interstate crashes last year — a 49% increase in deaths since 2020. Pedestrian fatalities increased by almost 27% since 2020, 185 people were killed last year.

Schneider also found that in 2021:

  • Crashes that caused moderate or severe injuries increased by 17%
  • There was a 4.9% increase in motorcycle deaths
  • Bike fatalities increased by 2.9%

LHSC Executive Director Lisa Freeman said the pandemic affected federally funded laws such as the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Campaign.

“When our law enforcement officers have all the tools they need, and we can amplify their efforts through public messaging, we will see those numbers go down,” Freeman said. “This is a pandemic-driven, national issue that virtually every state is facing.”

Freeman said drivers should assume personal responsibility when operating a vehicle.

“In the end, it all comes down to the choice you make,” Freeman said. “Never drink and drive, put away all distractions, obey the rules of the road, and always wear your seat belt.”