The number of vehicular crashes in St. Charles Parish has remained steady over the past four years, a trend the Sheriff's Office views as hopeful especially due to a rapid increase in population since 2005.
Even with an additional 10,000-15,000 people living in St. Charles from pre-Katrina totals, the number of crashes actually decreased from 2004 to 2006, which is a good sign that the frequency of crashes is coming down some, according to Sheriff Greg Champagne.
Among the list of roadways with the most frequent occurrence or crashes, Highway 90 came in at the top of the list.
"There were 488 crashes along Hwy 90 in 2006," Champagne said. "So roughly one in four accidents happen along 90."
Airline Highway is second on the list, which is finished out by River road on the eastbank and westbank, followed by I-310.
The majority of crashes are rear end accidents, Champagne said, many of which could be avoided if drivers were paying more attention to the road and their surroundings and not to their cell phones.
"Many of the rear end crashes are caused from people talking on a cell phone or eating their Burger King Whopper," Champagne said. "Anything that distracts a driver has a tendency to cause accidents."
As cell phones have become more prevalent, so have people driving while talking with their phone in one hand, leaving only one hand to drive with. This is what Champagne considers to be the biggest distraction on the road today and will continue as such unless legislation is passed to alleviate the problem.
"There are third world countries who have laws passed requiring drivers to use hands free devices while driving," Champagne said. "I think it's certainly time we passed something like that here."
Places like Mimosa Park, Paradis, and Des Allemands have an interesting disposition due to having residential streets that meet up with Hwy 90 where speeds increase from 20 mph to 55 or 60 mph, a drastic jump and a dangerous prospect for people pulling out of the residential streets onto the most traveled roadway in the parish.
While accidents are down, increased patrol and police presence has resulted in a record number of tickets written in 2006
St. Charles deputies wrote 8387 tickets in 2006, up from 5000 in 2005 and 8307 in 2004, according to Champagne. The low point in 2005 can be attributed largely to Hurricane Katrina, he said, but additional patrol units played a part in the increase for 2006.
Even with the record number of citations, Champagne noted that there are more people than ever traveling through St. Charles since Hurricane Katrina, and many of those people probably aren't familiar with the roadways and unique proximity of residential areas to heavily traveled Interstate and highways.
With 13 traffic fatalities in 2006, Champagne said he could not stress how important it is to remain cautious and alert when traveling by car.
"Violent crime is at a pretty low rate in St. Charles," Champagne said. "The chances of someone being injured or killed are much more likely behind the wheel."