Casey Colley and her mother, Tammy Willson.
Casey Colley was a young woman with a bright future. The 28 year-old marketing graduate had a job she enjoyed, a long-term relationship with a man she wanted to marry, and plans to grow her career and have children. She also loved to travel, to shop, and to spend time with her family.
But driving home after work on December 4, 2013, all of the promise and hope that Colley's life should have fulfilled was cut short in the space of seconds. Traveling on Highway 3132 toward the Walker Road exit, Colley's GMC Terrain was demolished when a truck traveling on the opposite side of the highway suddenly veered across the median and slammed headlong into Colley's vehicle, killing the young woman on impact.
"From reports of the eye witnesses, the other driver shot across the median, never braked, never swerved, just like a speeding bullet and hit Casey," said Tammy Willson, Colley's mother. "Casey didn't even know what was coming."
In the days, weeks and now months following the loss of Casey Colley, her family and members of the community are demanding answers to a question that has been asked after similar tragedies: Why haven't any cable barriers been installed along LA Highway 3132?
Only four months before Colley's death, another young woman was killed in a crossover accident on the Terry Bradshaw Passway. "How many people have to lose their lives?" Willson asked. "We need to save lives, and statistics prove that cable barriers reduce fatalities in crossover accidents. Lawmakers can't dispute those numbers."
The US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration has reported that cable barriers are a cost-effective crash deterrent on existing median areas. The report states that "median crossover crashes tend to be severe, and median encroachments are likely to increase with higher traffic volumes... Most states that have installed cable median barriers report a decrease in cross-median crash fatalities of 90 percent or more."
A $4.1 million project was approved to install cable barriers along I-20 and was supposed to begin construction in September of 2013. However, the mostly federally funded project won't affect Highway 3132, which needs state funding to erect cable barriers or any other type of median barrier.
"Since 2007, DOTD has been performing analyses on major interstates throughout Louisiana to determine where cable median barriers would be most beneficial in preventing cross-over collisions," said Susan Stafford, public information officer of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD). "Currently, DOTD is studying 3132 to see if the corridor would warrant cable barriers. The study should be complete sometime in April."
While that study is underway, Willson is committed to keeping awareness alive for the need of barriers along the highway. She has begun Casey Colley's Cause, a Facebook page dedicated to raising money to keep the issue in the public eye. "Our goal is to raise $10,000 through various fundraisers and events so that Casey won't have died in vain," said Willson. "We are going to petition lawmakers and continually strive to have these barriers put up."
The tragedy of losing her only child has left Willson with a void in her heart she says will never wholly heal. The only solace she has besides her memories is her mission to prevent any other family from experiencing the pain that everyone who knew and loved Casey has to live with. “We'll never bring Casey back, we'll never bring back any of the people who have lost their lives on any of these highways,” said Willson. “The pain on the families left behind is crucifying. And this could have all been potentially avoided. Statistics prove the chances that Casey could have survived this with road barriers are great.”
For more information or to donate, please visit Casey Colley’s Cause on Facebook.
By Kelly Flowers