Paving the Road to Safer Louisiana Highways

Louisiana’s definition of a distracted or inattentive driver is one who is actively engaged in any activity that diverts his/her attention away from the task of driving.

The work of public agencies, stakeholder groups and victim-related organizations have done a tremendous job of providing awareness concerning the leading causes of distracted driving and its impacts. As secretary, I am convinced that there is more to be done to raise awareness concerning the often dangerous and life-risking jobs of the men and women of DOTD.

At DOTD, safety is our top priority. We continue to act to raise awareness of this issue. Each year, we participate in national and local safety initiatives working closely with our partners, such as Louisiana State Police and the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, to remind motorists to avoid driving distracted or impaired. While we have improved our safety measures in work zones, we are appealing to citizens we serve to be an engaged partner and do their part.

On Monday, February 3, 2020, Dwayne Pitre, a dedicated DOTD employee performing his duties by picking up litter, was struck by a vehicle in a work zone. He was seriously injured when a distracted driver swerved to avoid slowing traffic on I-49, hitting Dwayne instead. This public servant now faces an extensive recovery process that is sure to place an undue financial and physical burden that he certainly didn’t expect when he left for work on Monday morning.

Adhering to protocol, Dwayne was equipped with his safety vest, the emergency lights on his vehicle were activated and he and his co-worker were a safe distance away from traffic. Thankfully, Dwayne is still with us, but for the DOTD family these accidents have seemed to end much grimmer recently.

Since my appointment, I have had the unfortunate, but significant, responsibility to call and console the families of Mr. Johnny Cole and Mr. Paul Featherston after both of these men were killed in the line of duty. Both of these dedicated employees were along our highways installing signs and repairing pot holes, respectively, when they were unexpectedly killed by distracted drivers. These two deaths help account for the 46 employees who have lost their lives in the line of duty since 1976, DOTD’s inception.

In an effort to combat these terrible incidents, DOTD recently introduced several safety enhancements, which include additional personnel on work crews to monitor traffic, the extension of work zones and the addition of impact-absorbing trailers that provide warning lights and flashing arrows. Additionally, we are changing our safety color patterns to include a vivid green. This green will be displayed with yellow on our uniforms and be added to our emergency light regime.

While the loss of our employees and nature of their jobs warrant these changes, as aforementioned, we can’t fight distracted driving alone. We need you! Join us in establishing policy solutions to keep Louisianans safe. It is incumbent upon each of us to protect one another. Avoidable deaths are sobering reminders that these men and women are our family, friends and neighbors. We need your support to not only work to eradicate distracted driving and its impacts, but to ensure that our workers stay safe and are afforded every protection and benefit that is equal to the sacrifice and risk they take daily!


Shawn D. Wilson, Ph.D.

Secretary, LA Department of Transportation and Development

7 thoughts on “Paving the Road to Safer Louisiana Highways

  1. If the DOTD wants to pave the roads with something it needs to be asphalt or concrete because these garbage ass roads that are so bad people are either swerving into the other lane to miss poleholes or hit the potholes and have their vehicles thrown all over the road and sometimes even off the road. Louisiana needs to stop spending money on bullshit and start spending it on the roads that are getting worse and worse.

    • well said .We rank worst in the country for our bridges and roads
      is that a goal ? we need a much better governor in this state.
      If we don’t start fixing things soon it will be a 100 times worse.

  2. I would like to see all law enforcement agencies crackdown on texting while driving. Numerous times I have been passed driving 75 on I-49 by a person texting while driving 80 plus. Natchitoches is not exempt from texting eithe. Ladies is that text important enough to put your children at risk? My personal opinion is texting while driving is more dangerous than drinking.

  3. They would not have had to repair potholes if the roads were built properly in the first place and truck weights were vigorously enforced. The DOTD and law enforcement are not completely free of guilt in the injuries and deaths.

  4. I see the police on their phones nearly as often as I see other drivers. I gave up riding my motorcycle because of almost being struck head on three times in one ride and the daily encounters with distracted drivers. People aren’t going to change and it is only getting worse. If the law isn’t abiding by the rules how can you expect the public to?

  5. does the DOTD consider pot holes a distraction ?? people swerve
    to miss them so they don’t tear up their vehicles.

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