It is no exaggeration to say that traffic accidents veritably plague the highways of the Big Easy. Every day, citizens and visitors to the Crescent city find themselves in the painful and frightening circumstance of suddenly sustaining serious injuries and losing loved ones in traffic accidents involving cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians.
That is why I have decided to spend this blog post talking about the various types of traffic accidents that can befall an unfortunate soul in New Orleans. By educating you about these accidents, I hope, perhaps, to help you avoid getting into one. Of course, if you have already suffered the trauma of a New Orleans traffic accident and need legal help, an experienced New Orleans car crash law firm is just a phone call or chat away.
New Orleans Traffic Accident Overview
LSU’s Center for Analysis & Research in Transportation Safety publishes a HUGE trove of statistics about traffic accidents in Louisiana. Among those is information about crashes in New Orleans (well, in Orleans Parish, to be precise). LSU’s data shows 6,344 traffic accidents in and around New Orleans the most recent year for which data is available, 40 of them fatal and another 6,304 of them resulting in injuries to drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Another 13,680 crashes involved only property damage, at least so far as we know.
These accidents piled up a TON of costs; about $965.76 million by LSU’s estimate, or somewhere around $4,794 for every licensed driver in Orleans Parish. Of course, not all of those dollars reflect losses for accident victims but make no mistake: the annual toll of traffic accidents in New Orleans is ENORMOUS.
Let’s take a closer look at the types of accidents that happen in the Big Easy.
Traffic Accidents at Intersections
One of the most stunning pieces of data available from LSU is the fact that more than half of all traffic accidents in New Orleans happen AT INTERSECTIONS. That is a SHOCKING statistic because statewide, only about a third of all accidents happen at intersections each year. I have not found an analysis of why traffic accidents in the Big Easy happen so much more often at intersections than the state average, but I suspect it has something to do with the city’s narrow, crowded streets, alcohol use among drivers, and aging city infrastructure that makes getting around ever-more difficult and frustrating with each passing year.
What kind of traffic accidents happen at New Orleans intersections? Two of the most common are broadside collisions and vehicles striking pedestrians.
Broadside (a.k.a. T-bone) Collisions
Wherever traffic lanes cross at right angles, you can bet on accidents involving one vehicle running into the side of another. In fact, in Orleans Parish, nearly two-thirds of the intersection crashes on city streets involved a side impact, and broadside collisions were responsible for almost seven of the ten of the intersection accidents resulting in injuries.
If you ask me, although these are some high numbers, they are not especially surprising. Intersections are famously dangerous “points of conflict” where the intentions of drivers, bikers, cyclists, and pedestrians clash. Traffic engineers spend their careers studying intersections to find ways to make them safer. In a city like New Orleans, however, it’s not an option to redesign or overhaul intersections. The narrow streets and historic buildings down here don’t allow for much physical change.
The challenges confronting a driver approaching an intersection in the Big Easy include:
- Seeing other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians at the same intersection, which is not easy at crowded intersections with limited sight lines
- Predicting the behaviors of those road users (assuming the driver can see them at all)
- Following often confusing or malfunctioning traffic signals (and hoping others do the same)
- Analyzing when it is safe to cross the intersection.
Guess what? Drivers often get those tasks WRONG. Whether through alcohol use, fatigue, confusion, poor visibility, plain old recklessness, or they misjudge whether it is safe to enter an intersection, and then—bam—a broadside collision happens.
The injuries for drivers and passengers in these accidents CAN RUIN LIVES. It is common for the occupants of the vehicle struck on its side, in particular, to suffer CATASTROPHIC INJURIES like brain trauma and damage to their spinal cords. After all, unlike the occupants of the vehicle that hit them, these occupants have almost no car body material separating them from the point of impact. Seatbelts also provide only minimal protection in side-impact accidents.
So, when you are behind the wheel in the Big Easy, TAKE CARE AT INTERSECTIONS, YA’ HEAR?
Remember how I said that a hefty percentage of the traffic accidents resulting in injuries at New Orleans intersections involve broadside collisions? The same does not hold true when it comes to accidents at intersections that result in fatalities. In one recent year, there were 17 fatalities at Big Easy intersections, but only three of them happened because of broadside collisions. The data does not say exactly why that is, but I have a guess. I bet it’s because many of those fatalities involved pedestrians.
LOTS AND LOTS of people, especially tourists, get around the Crescent City on foot. Intersections are VERY DANGEROUS places for them because, in a collision between a vehicle and an unprotected human body, the human always loses. The severe trauma of being thrown into the air and/or to the ground by an impact with a vehicle takes lives. Even if a pedestrian survives a collision with a car or truck, CATASTROPHIC INJURIES like severe fractures, brain and spinal cord injuries, and organ damage can still follow.
Motorcycle and Bicycle Accidents
Here’s some “good” news. Relatively few motorcyclists and bicyclists died in traffic accidents in New Orleans during the most recent year for which statistics are available (which isn’t always the case). Like elsewhere around Louisiana, however, riding a two wheeled vehicle, be it motorized or pedal-powered, still comes with HUGE RISKS.
Getting into an accident on any kind of bike means a likely collision, at speed, with an unforgivingly hard object or surface like, say, a vehicle, a road, or a concrete barrier or sidewalk. THAT COLLISION, in turn, translates into a high risk of death or traumatic injuries like severe road rash, brain and spinal damage, complex fractures, and orthopedic injuries, to name just a few.
Bikers of all stripes who ride on the Big Easy’s narrow, crowded streets (particularly bicyclists) also have to contend with the risk of DOORINGS, a particularly insidious form of accident for two-wheelers that happens when someone opens a vehicle door directly into their travel lane. This bike safety website lists three New Orleans dooring deaths, but I would bet you that hundreds of these accidents injure riders every year in the Crescent City.
Our streets are just too narrow and too crowded for these accidents not to happen. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to prevent them, however. Motorists can do their part to protect riders by implementing a simple change in how they reach for their door handle. It’s called the Dutch Reach, and all it means is to reach across your body for a door handle, which forces you to turn your torso in a way that makes it easy to look to see if opening your door would create a sudden, deadly obstacle for a biker.
Commercial Vehicle Accidents
It is difficult for trucks and other commercial vehicles to navigate many of the streets of New Orleans. Unfortunately, increasingly they have no choice. Crescent City residents need packages delivered, and business owners need supplies and inventory to keep their shelves and kitchens stocked. As truck traffic increases, SO DO ACCIDENTS.
Truck accidents do not end well for the smaller vehicle or pedestrian involved. Trucks are heavy and tall. In a collision, they inflict outsized damage, and when they spill their cargo, they create a huge mess (at the very least). Severe injuries are common in crashes involving trucks.
Distracted Driving Accidents
Here’s something else that won’t shock you, I bet. Distracted drivers cause a LOT of traffic accidents in New Orleans. Even though texting and driving is illegal in Louisiana, the threat of a ticket does not always stop Big Easy residents and visitors from sneaking a peek at their phones behind the wheel. Even though it should be clear to EVERYONE by now that it is basically IMPOSSIBLE to pay attention to a screen and the road at the same time, drivers still try and end up causing accidents that kill and injure others.
Now I’m going to tell you something you might not have expected. As fatally distracting as smartphones can be for drivers, they are by far not the only type of distraction that can lead to catastrophe on New Orleans roads. In fact, if LSU’s data is to be believed, drivers, bikers, and pedestrians who get into accidents because of distraction have had their attention drawn away from safe decisions far more often by non-screen-related factors both inside and outside of vehicles than they do by screens. Like what?
How about turning around to talk to kids in the back seat, or reaching for something you dropped on the floor, or drinking in the sights and sounds of New Orleans when you step off of the sidewalk instead of paying attention to traffic lights and approaching traffic? Each of those totally typical behaviors can amount to a fatal distraction.
So, PAY ATTENTION. There is a time to have your attention drawn away from what’s happening on the road, but that sure is not when you are on the road.
Help After New Orleans Traffic Accidents
I hope that I haven’t SCARED you by my digressions about the types of traffic accidents in New Orleans and the personal calamities that accompany them. Then again, I don’t mind particularly if I have given you a little fright, because although I make my living helping people recover from accidental injuries, I would always prefer that someone not suffer a tragedy and need my services.
The unfortunate reality is, traffic accidents do happen, even when we try our best to avoid them. When that occurs, you will find no better friend in your fight for justice and fair compensation than an experienced New Orleans traffic accident injury attorney. Louisiana law entitles victims of other peoples’ negligent and reckless actions to seek compensation for the pain and loss those wrongdoers inflicted. Victims and their families must act quickly and make sure they have a trusted legal advisor by their side who knows the ins-and-outs of Louisiana’s somewhat unique and complicated legal system.
The right lawyer can gather evidence about your New Orleans traffic accident, figure out who did you harm and whether they have the means to pay you damages, and pursue those parties to the ends of the Earth to ensure justice is done for you and your loved ones, even if that means taking your case to trial before a New Orleans judge and jury. Get started today by contacting an attorney who can help you understand your rights.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.