Every day, over 30,000 people travel on the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge between Lafayette and Baton Rouge. The bridge—also called the Louisiana Airborne Memorial Bridge—was the longest bridge in the country when it was finished in 1973. Its 18 miles is now the 3rd longest in the country, and 14th longest in the world.
Tragically, the Basin Bridge is also the site of over 1,000 accidents since 2014, including 15 fatalities. Its four narrow lanes on twin parallel bridges, neither of which have shoulders, mean that bridge crashes can hold up traffic for hours at a time.
Attempts at Making the Bridge Safer
In 1998, after a series of deadly car crashes on the bridge, its speed limit was lowered from 70 miles per hour to 60 MPH. At that time, the high number of wrecks was attributed to the commercial trucks driving the bridge carrying freight.
The speed limit for trucks was also limited to 55 MPH, and they were required to stay in the right lane for the length of the bridge.
In 2018, the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge saw 245 accidents and 70 serious injuries, due largely to the narrow lanes and density of traffic. The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) is still working on making the bridge safer.
However, the past two years have seen an increase in injuries and deaths along the bridge:
- In 2020, 203 accidents left 55 injured and 2 dead
- In 2021, 269 accidents left 89 injured and 2 dead
This increase has led state officials to try more effective measures, like designating the bridge a “highway safety corridor.”
A Safety Corridor Along the Louisiana Airborne Memorial Bridge?
In April 2022, the Advocate reported that legislation to designate the bridge as a “highway safety corridor” cleared a state Senate committee. This designation would allow the DOTD to double fines, install more signs, and use speed cameras to help cut down on speeding.
The technology system laid out by Senate Bill 435 would allow DOTD to calculate the speed of cars along the bridge by photographing them at different points and calculating their speed based on travel time.
State transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson told the Advocate,
“Our intent is to provide notification, provide warning, and at your third offense, you get the violation. When you speed, you typically have fatalities. When you have fatalities, you’re shutting that interstate down. Those three minutes (saved by speeding) could translate to eight hours of a closed interstate system.”
Common Causes of Atchafalaya Bridge Accidents
Because the bridge is so long and straight, it can be risky to drive on. Here are some of the main causes for car crashes on the Louisiana Airborne Memorial Bridge:
- 18-wheelers violating lane and speed restrictions
- Aggressive driving, including speeding and weaving through traffic
- Hazards due to merging/exiting activity of vehicles in the right lane
- High volumes of traffic
- Impaired driving, including distracted driving
- Narrow lanes and a general lack of highway shoulders
- Repair work causing frequent lane closures
- Tailgating, which causes rear-end collisions
Costs You Could Incur After a Bridge Crash
Even if you drive defensively and safely along the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge, you could still be struck by another vehicle. Because of the narrow shoulders, it’s hard for police to patrol the Basin Bridge, and since it’s so straight, speeders can spot cruisers from miles away.
This means that few people obey the posted speed limit signs, and worse, drive distracted or even drunk. It’s really no surprise that so many accidents occur on this one small stretch of highway in south Louisiana.
After you’re the victim of a car crash on the bridge, you have the right to seek damages for your expenses, which vary and can include the following:
- Current and future medical expenses
- The costs of physical rehabilitation and therapy
- Loss of income, both now and in the future
- Your pain and suffering, and your emotional trauma
- If your loved one died in the crash, you could be entitled to wrongful death damages
An experienced lawyer will examine your claim and determine which damages you can seek for your injuries.
What to Do If You’re a Victim of an Atchafalaya Basin Bridge Accident
If you or a loved one were injured in an accident on the basin bridge, you could be entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering you’re going through. A bridge crash can be particularly dangerous because of the risk for additional crashes after the initial collision. You could be dealing with injuries including broken bones, cuts, burns, brain injuries, and more.
If you were injured as a result of another driver’s negligence, you need a Louisiana personal injury lawyer who knows what it takes to get you the funds you need to heal. The car wreck lawyers at Gordon McKernan Injury Attorneys are experienced in car crash injury cases, and know how to talk with your insurance, the other party’s, and even litigate your case in court. After a highway bridge injury, you need the experience of a lawyer at Gordon McKernan Injury Attorneys. We have offices in both Lafayette and Baton Rouge, so we’re just a phone call away. Plus, we offer free consultations and the G Guarantee: you won’t owe us a dime until we win your case!