Teen Turns Tragic Loss Into Effort to Improve Highway Safety

April 11, 2022

MAURICE, La. (AP) — A Louisiana high school senior who lost her best friend in a head-on collision is on a mission to improve safety on on Highway 167.

Emma Hebert and Ramsie Baumgardner both attended North Vermillion High, and Baumgardner became the third high schooler killed on Highway 167 in the last four years. She was 18.

Some sections of the state highway are uneven and unlit.

Hebert is one of the people in the Maurice community fighting for change, The Advertiser reported. She joined others at a Vermilion Parish Police Jury meeting in February to discuss adding lights and other ways to increase safety, but she left feeling as if nothing would be done.

“I wanted (action), so nobody else has to go through what we went through,” Hebert said.

Hebert turned her final paper for her dual-enrollment English class into a persuasive argument to put lights and better signage on the highway.

“The lack of lighting and signage on highway 167 makes it perilous, and it is imperative that state and local authorities take action to prevent head-on collisions,” Hebert wrote.

She collected police data on highway crashes and learned about the dangers and prevalence of impaired driving. The information fills a large binder, along with more than 1,100 responses to an online survey she posted last month. More than half of those responding identified as between 16 and 22 years old.

“As a teenager, I don’t fill out a survey,” Hebert said. “It just shows how much of an impact there’s been on people my age. … Ramsie just had a lot of people who loved her and who care about the safety down 167.”

Responses came from Maurice, Rayne, Baton Rouge and other cities. Hebert asked two primary questions — if motorists felt safe driving 167 during the day or at night.

Most were fine with the highway during the day, but a resounding majority said they felt unsafe at night. The main difference is lighting, Herbert said.

“The survey brought to life the magnitude of the issues associated with Louisiana Highway 167,” she wrote. “Our community has suffered enough in the past six years; we cannot lose another member to this same issue.”

Lisa Lynch, Hebert’s instructor for the college-level course, guided her through the project. She found the responses enlightening.

“Some say they avoid (167) at all costs,” Lynch said. “And with the population (of Maurice) exploding, this will just exponentially get worse.”

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