Advocate staff photo by BRAD BOWIE -- John Leblanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, right; Lafayette City Court Judge Douglas Saloom, center; and, Rob Reardon, director of corrections for the Lafayette Parish Correctional Facility, discuss potential solutions to the problems associated with drinking and driving during in this Jan. 26, 2015, Advocate file photo.

Louisiana roadway fatalities dropped by 29 percent between 2007 and 2013, officials announced Tuesday.

“Over the past seven years, we have made tremendous progress,” said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission.

“In 2007, Louisiana suffered 993 traffic fatalities compared with 703 in 2013, a drop of almost 30 percent,” LeBlanc said in a prepared statement. “The data tells us we’re doing what needs to be done.”

LeBlanc said the decrease stems from tougher impaired driving and seat belt laws, more robust law enforcement and public information campaigns on the causes of traffic accidents.

Roadway fatalities fell 2.9 percent from 2012 to 2013, when 651 died.

Impaired driving and lack of seat belts were the chief culprits.

The figures were compiled for the 2013 Louisiana Traffic Records Data Report, which is done by the LSU Highway Safety Research Group.

The report said bicycle and pedestrian deaths also dropped between 2012 and 2013 — 46 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

The study said that, of the 489 drivers who died in 2013, 76 percent were men.

It also said that 42 percent of traffic fatalities in 2013 were alcohol-related and that 52 percent of roadway fatalities that year involved passengers who were not wearing seat belts.

Despite the positive news, LeBlanc and other state officials said more improvements are needed.

“While much of this data is encouraging, there is more to be done to continue to reduce the fatality numbers,” said Sherri LeBas, secretary of the state Department of Transportation and Development.

The report also said that:

  • 86 people were killed on motorcycles in 2013, up 10 percent over the previous year.
  • The use of rear seat belts rose to 55 percent, up from 27 percent in 2008, the year before they became mandatory.
  • Roadway fatalities nationwide totaled 32,719 in 2013, a 3.1 percent drop from the previous year.