VERMILION PARISH, La. (KLFY)–News 10 continues the discussion about residents’ concerns with fatal accidents in Vermilion Parish. Last week, News 10 spoke with two residents who shared their concerns about distracted or impaired driving.
A data report with LSU CARTS shows there were nine fatal crashes this year within the parish.
Brian Baumgardner shared how he lost his daughter to a tragic crash on U.S. 167.
“For me, Ramsie was the second one of our family to be killed a mile apart by a drunk driver—exact same situation,” Baumgardner said. “Stacy Primeaux, I know she came last week and spoke. We’re cousins. Being a police officer for 25 years and being a father of a child that was taken on this roadway with the lack of lighting and the lack of signage. I understand both sides of it. What’s the answer? I wish I could tell you.”
“I think J-turn would be a huge start,” he continued. “Ultimately, lighting. If we can get both at the major intersections, I think that would be huge for us. But like I said, I understand both sides. I understand the law enforcement side and funding and paying for law enforcement and law enforcement as a whole being short-handed. I understand that the funding for the electricity and the upkeep of it, who’s going to maintain that? So it’s a lot of entities coming together, a lot of governmental agencies coming together to try to pay for this large expense, and it’s how is that going to be accomplished?”
Baumgardner’s 18-year-old daughter lost her life in January of last year. He said she was going to a girls’ night with family, and roughly a mile to three-quarters of a mile away from her turning off of Highway 167, there was a car in front of her that was slowing. He said his daughter switched lanes, and right when she switched lanes, there was an individual traveling northbound in the southbound lane and hit her.
“Unfortunately, [it has] taken both lives, and it’s been a journey, to say the least,” Baumgardner said.
Residents have been pushing for change to come to U.S. 167.
“People say, ‘Can we save one person?’ No, I want to save three or four; after living it, I’d like to push that standard up and actually try to save three or four people,” he said. “Our community has suffered enough, and we’re really trying to change that.”
Baumgardner explained how Highway 167, the southbound lane of travel, is lower, and the northbound is elevated at roughly three feet. A concern is the intersections are really dark.
“Now, I know they [DOTD] have since come in and put in a little signage, some reflective signage,” Baumgardner said. “It does help, but it’s so dark at these intersections. You really have to be paying attention. If it’s somebody who’s not familiar with the area, there’s no way they’re going to see that. My family feels that the signage, J-turn, will put a big change in, I guess, making them see that there is an elevated road. There is another lane of travel just east of the intersections or west, depending on which way you are coming.”
“I would like to see lights lighting up the J-turns,” Baumgardner said. “I’m not ignorant to the fact that we’re not going to stop drinking and driving. We live in South Louisiana, so to stop drinking and driving would make me sound ridiculous.”
However, having the extra precaution steps in place with the J-turns, signage and lighting would be a significant factor in changing some of the outcomes of crashes in the parish. Baumgardner said drivers should think before they make decisions that can change their and other people’s lives forever.
“It takes seconds, and when you have, I’m going to use a young driver, somebody the first five years of driving, they’re distracted, they’re making TikTok,” Baumgardner said. “They’re making social media posts. They’re talking to their friends; they’re messing with the radio. Those few seconds make a huge decision factor in that. Before you have that drink, before you get behind the wheel before your phone text message goes off while you drive, and just take a few seconds.”
“Every decision has a consequence, good or bad,” he continued. “Take a few seconds and think about that decision before you make it and think about Ramsie, you know, think about the hundreds, thousands of not only kids but adults that lost their lives because of a decision you made, and it may change your life. It may not, but it may save your life.”
Baumgardner told News 10 that the parish is working with the family to find different ideas and solutions for U.S. 167, but it all comes down to funding to see how changes can be made.
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