In the last 20 years, overboard fatalities on the Causeway Bridge have risen from one every five years to currently three per year, a roughly 1500% increase. Nearly all of the fatalities have occurred in the southbound lane, which was the initial span of the causeway built in 1957 and which is 5 inches lower than the northbound span, which was built in 1969. The cost of raising the railing as well as installing safety bays, is in excess of $100 million.
In discussions with the causeway general manager, Carlton Dufrechou, the main reasons for the increase in accidents are the larger vehicles and drivers distracted by electronic devices. We obviously can’t prohibit larger vehicles on the causeway, but we can do something about distracted drivers, by prohibiting cell phone use.
This is why I am planning to file a bill in the 2015 Louisiana Legislative Session, which will ban cell phone use which is not part of a hands-free system on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. Although texting is currently prohibited, the legislature has been unable to pass a bill banning total cell phone use, which is not hands free, on a statewide basis. Hopefully, the telecommunications industry will not oppose a local bill addressing these unique circumstances.