BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Highway fatalities in the state in 2021 surpassed previous records with the highest numbers since 2007, according to preliminary data from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD).

DOTD reports a preliminary total of 997 fatalities in 2021. The official numbers will be reported at the end of March. Although official numbers haven’t been declared, the department compares the current preliminary data of last year’s roadway fatalities to the previous “high-death mark” of 993 fatalities in 2007.

Additionally, DOTD reports a total of 914 crashes in 2021 which was an increase from 762 crashes in 2020.

“The number of fatalities in 2021 is alarming and we can easily stop this trend,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “The fact that there are an average of 3 deaths per day on Louisiana highways is unacceptable. If travelers would obey the traffic laws, wear their seatbelts and be patient with one another, we could see these numbers go down considerably. Please keep the people who died in crashes in your thoughts and prayers – there are nearly 1,000 family members who died in 2021.”

DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson urges Louisianans on the roadways to use safety precautions while traveling in the state and call on residents to take responsibility.

“It’s extremely disheartening to see our highway fatality statistics soaring in the wrong direction,” said Wilson. “We consistently stress to everybody the dangers of distracted and impaired driving and the importance of seatbelts, but we have to do better. Having nearly a thousand fatalities on the road in a year is inexcusable, unacceptable, and frightening, especially when the vast majority of them are preventable. There is not one parish in the state that did not witness at least one accident. We have to do better Louisiana; it’s everyone’s responsibility.”

Other state roadway officials react to the data while promising to raise awareness and continue promoting safe driving practices.

“As first responders, our personnel witness the devastating effects of motor vehicle crashes every day across the state,” said Colonel Lamar Davis, Louisiana State Police Superintendent. “Although most involve damage to property, we are witnessing far too many that result in the loss of life. Troopers will continue to work closely with our public safety partners. But the goal of reducing crashes and saving lives can only be accomplished through a partnership with the motoring public. We will continue to raise awareness through ongoing enforcement of dangerous driving behavior and community education and outreach. However, we encourage all drivers and occupants to always remain properly restrained, avoid all distractions behind the wheel, and never drive impaired. Together we can make a difference and reduce these tragic statistics. Together we can save lives.”

“Two words describe motor vehicle crash fatalities: they are tragic and they are preventable,” said Lisa Freeman, Executive Director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. “While there are certain outcomes we cannot alter, roadway deaths are a public safety crisis that we can do something about. That action plan begins and ends with safe driving practices, all of which are simple as ‘A, B, C,’ and based on common sense: making sure everyone in a vehicle is properly buckled up; not driving if you’re impaired by alcohol or other substances, which include legal, prescription and over-the-counter medications; and finally, by giving the activity of driving, the high concentration it deserves and requires by not being distracted by anything that takes focus off of operating a vehicle. This is the basic recipe for reducing Louisiana’s over 40 percent alcohol-related roadway deaths and its over 50 percent unrestrained traffic fatality rate. We can, and we must, do better. Lives literally depend on it.”