Thursday, November 17, 2011
Louisiana Highway Department Will Not Give Crash Data To College Student for Service Learning Project
Centenary College Student, Trevor Stine, is using U.S. Census Bureau's On the Map to tell Shreveport's story of how Caddo Parish, Louisiana residents are relocating their homes in the City's core for bigger sprawled out homes on the outskirts of town due to perceived crime, and low quality education in Shreveport. In addition, the state highway department has helped fuel the exodus out of Shreveport's core thanks to good arterials to get them to work in under 20 minutes.
Trevor is working with the citizen advocacy group, ABetterShreveport.org, as part of Centenary College's service learning program required by all students. ABetterShreveport.org's mission is to improve the quality of life in Shreveport using proven best management practices in transportation, economic development, education, permaculture, and urban planning in general. Each student gets to select the nonprofit organization of their choice, and Trevor wanted to work with ABetterShreveport.org to help them get maps of the City and Parish's demographics and economic stats on maps for citizens to learn about our stark situation regarding quality of life. No other entity (public or private) in Shreveport has maps of the area's demographics online as of 2011.
Under the direction of Strategic Director, Stephanie Pedro, Trevor requested crash data from the Louisiana Highway Department, LA-DOTD, and he received this response:
Good Morning Mr. Stine,
I have spoken to our local traffic engineer and the crash report data that you requested is protected by 23 USC 409 and is not given out to the public. 23 USC 409 is the designation of a legal statute established by federal law. I apologize that I cannot assist you further with you questions but please feel free to contact me with any other questions or concerns you may have. Thank you for contacting the DOTD.
Have a great day,
Public Information Officer
Department of Transportation and Developmentwww.dotd.louisiana.gov
If no other entity, including our own DOTD, is mapping out important data that could lead to better decision-making, then why is this information not being shared with college students who are offering to dissect this data for free? Hopefully Streetsblog and Secretary LaHood will pick this article up and share with us how other communities are dealing with 23 USC 409.
In addition, it appears that LA-DOTD is already having problems with their code:
From Louisiana Injury Lawyer Blog: In Quinn v. State of Louisiana, DOTD, 2009-0085 (La.App. 1 Cir. 12/23/09), writ denied, 2010-358 (La.4/23/10), the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal, in an opinion not designated for publication, held that once the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) chooses to exercise the privilege set forth in 23 U.S.C. §409, that protects from discovery any reports, surveys, schedules, lists or data compiled or collected for the purpose of identifying, evaluating or planning the safety enhancement of potential accident sites and hazardous roadway conditions, and which prevents the plaintiff from discovering any evidence of prior accidents at a location involving an alleged highway defect, that it follows that DOTD is then precluded from offering any evidence establishing an absence of other accidents at the same location at trial. In other words, "DOTD cannot have its cake and eat it too. If plaintiffs cannot discover and use the evidence of prior accidents, then DOTD should not be able to use evidence of the lack of prior accidents to prove no defect, all the while preventing plaintiffs from verifying the accuracy of DOTD's representation that no accidents occurred."