Special Report: Dead Man’s Curve

Updated: Jan. 15, 2020 at 9:09 PM CST
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) -Southwest Louisiana has seen its fair share of busy roadways and unfortunately, some pretty ugly accidents along the way. However, there’s a portion of Interstate 10 that, over the years, has gained the nickname, “Dead Man’s Curve”.

“Anywhere where you have a curve and there’s a lot of accidents...a lot of death, that just becomes the name of that area and this is no different,” said resident John Batiste.

John Batiste and his family have lived off of Interstate 10--near the Opelousas Street exit, across from what they and many locals call “Dead Man’s Curve” for nearly 4 decades." He says it’s a fairly quiet neighborhood, except for all the crashes they hear.

“There have been fatal accidents here over the years and as recently within the last year," Batiste said. "We use that term in almost a light, funny way but it’s not a joke, it’s a very serious situation.”

According to officials, there have been about 125 total crashes on this stretch of Interstate 10 from 2014 to 2018, with 1 fatality over the last 5 years. In 2019, police investigated 50 crashes in the area stretching from the Shattuck Street exit to the Opelousas Street exit. The following figures include the east and westbound lanes of travel. (Data courtesy of City of Lake Charles)

  • 2014: 44 crashes reported with no fatalities. Of the 44, 17 involved commercial motor vehicles.
  • 2015: 21 crashes reported with no fatalities. Of the 21, 11 involved commercial motor vehicles.
  • 2016: 24 crashes reported with no fatalities. Of the 24, 6 involved commercial motor vehicles.
  • 2017: 10 crashes reported with no fatalities. Of the 10, 2 involved commercial motor vehicles.
  • 2018: 26 crashes reported with 1 fatality. Of the 26, 9 involved commercial motor vehicles.

“We see it all the time,” said Sgt. James Anderson, Louisiana State Police.

However, it’s those driving 18-wheelers that people in the area are most concerned about.

“The driver was heading west, and the wheel came off and jumped over the curb and went down into my neighbor’s yard and through their front door," said Batiste. “Had they been sitting in their front room, no telling what could have happened, it could have been devastating.”

Devastation that's not only left an impact on homeowners but nearby businesses as well.

“We have accidents where stuff scatters all the way from up the corner there and all the way down," said Maureen Thomas.

Employees at the Road King Travel Plaza, like Maureen Thomas, have seen their fair share of accidents.

“One time, a truck jackknifed and the front of the truck came in, damaged a car and wrecked the whole building there and it was closed for a period of time," said Thomas.

“When accidents happen, nobody comes here, because the exit is blocked," said employee Nasir

It’s a scary sight when those nearby witnesses something like accidents such as an 18-wheeler crashing into a concrete barrier, but what if you’re the one behind the wheel?

“There’s been a lot of jackknifes!," said Scott Meador.

Scott Meador has been driving 18-wheelers for 25 years and travels along this stretch of I-10 every day. Though he’s used to the area, he said most truck drivers aren’t, and usually have no idea what the potential dangers can be when you mix a curve, excessive speed, and precipitation together.

“It’s 50 over the bridge and then it picks up to 60. By the time you get into these 2 huge curves, you need to be down to 40,” Meador said.

In the last several years, DOTD has put up signs to warn people about the curve. There are also radar signs up to warn drivers that are going too fast, but some say that’s not enough.

“You’re using the lights of the vehicle in front of you, you’re using the edge of the road, and also the lights that are alongside the road--but there are no lights," Batiste said. "I would imagine that would negatively affect anyone coming into this curve, which is evident of what’s been going on for decades.”

“Changing the road would be a better deal,” said Thomas.

Ultimately, the verdict is still out on what's actually causing these crashes. Some feel it's not enough lighting, while others say it's the width and depth of the curve, that's to blame.

“It’s very common for someone to hit the guardrail and damage it,” said Tammy York.

Tammy York, a spokesman for Louisiana DOTD, says assessing this portion of Interstate 10--particularly the areas near the Shattuck and Opelousas Street exits, is an ongoing process.

We asked if the depth of the curve had anything to do with the number of accidents there...York said it’s something the department is looking into but couldn’t really say if it’s the exact cause.

“I know that there was some curve delineation in process, but as far as future possible things...they’re being looked at and analyzed as part of that DOTD Safety Investment Plan," York said. "So I can’t really speculate on what that’s going to look like because we’re not there yet.”

Click here to read Louisiana DOTD’s District 7 Safety Investment Plan.

She said repairs are made continuously. Aside from repairing a concrete barrier, they’ve also repaired the guardrail near the Opelousas Street exit three times within the last year.

“It’s either they’re going to flip over... some even running off the road and down to the bottom," said Thomas.

As for how they’ll address this area in the future, York said there’s no clear answer as of yet.

“There are different kinds of traffic things out there that we could do, it’s just a matter of doing the analysis and choosing the best one for the best course of action," said York.

Action that residents like Batiste hope come before another accident turns fatal.

“We’ve seen this for years and we’re all concerned about what’s going on...we’re concerned about injuries and it possibly being us one day," Batiste said. "We ride these roads as well and if we’re a part of what may be something horrible, you want to do everything that you can do to bring it to the attention of the people that can make it a better situation.”

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