BATON ROUGE — The House Transportation Committee approved bills Monday to authorize high-occupancy vehicle lanes and study higher fines for drivers who injure or kill motorcyclists and pedestrians.
The high-occupancy lanes, which would be a first for Louisiana, are designated for vehicles with more than one person. The bill, proposed by Senator Dale Erdey, R-Livingston, is intended to reduce traffic overflow by re-labeling lanes with adequate shoulders.
Erdey said one possible place for an HOV lane would be from Interstate 12 in Walker to the I-10 and I-12 split in Baton Rouge. This bottleneck, committee Chairman Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, said, causes commuters to get stuck in the corridor between Baton Rouge and Hammond.
Atlanta, Dallas and Houston all have high-occupancy lanes.
The committee also approved a study that help motorcyclists and other vulnerable road users.
In 2018, 79 motorcyclists, 163 pedestrians and 29 cyclists were killed in Louisiana, according to crash data reports provided by LSU. In 2019, motorcycle and cyclist fatalities are projected to increase.
The study, proposed by Rep. Polly Thomas, R-Metairie, will look at ways to increase punishment in an effort to deter accidents.
The current fines, sometimes only $250, are not high enough, legislators contended.
“If you are going to cause a fatality,” Rep. “Truck“ Gisclair said, “you should not have the privilege to drive again immediately.”
The bill advanced without objection.
Legislators also advanced a bill to create “Who Dat Nation” signs on I-10 at the Texas and the Mississippi and at the Mercedes Benz Superdome.
“I want everybody to know this is, in fact, Who Dat Nation, but the fans here in Louisiana really need our honor, and I want to pay a tribute to them,” said Sen. Wesley T. Bishop, D-New Orleans.
A proposal to stop requiring state inspection stickers also advanced 8-6. Under the bill, the money normally collected from the inspection fees would fund 150 more state troopers across Louisiana.
“The inspection stickers are not working," said Rep. Lawrence Bagley, R-Stonewall, who sponsored the bill and a similar one two years ago, which was shut down by the House Transportation Committee unanimously.
Landry, a former superintendent of State Police, voiced strong opposition to the bill.
“Why are we regressing instead of moving forward in terms of public safety?” Landry asked.
Photo: Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, a former superintendent of State Police, strongly objected to a bill that would eliminate state inspection stickers on Monday. (Photo by Madeline Meyer / LSU Manship School News Service)