BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — More than 900 people in Louisiana lost their lives in car crashes last year, marking a 17% increase from the year before.

State officials say that number should be zero.

“We’re going in the wrong direction. And so we need to do better,” Governor John Bel Edwards said.

A total of 971 Louisiana citizens died as a result of car crashes last year. On average, that amounts to three deaths every day of the year.

Governor John Bel Edwards explained that action must be taken to prevent such tragedies, saying, “Is the highest that we have ever experienced in a single year. So the statistics are alarming, and many of these fatalities, we know, can be prevented.”

Local leaders are working to eradicate the prevalence of preventable crashes.

Some of the leaders who are stepping up to the plate include Shawn Wilson, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), and a number of law enforcement agencies.

Their aim is to reduce crash fatality statistics by 50 % by 2030.

“Strengthening laws and public policies to prohibit risky behavior such as distracted driving. Increasing accountability through enforcement and other measures. And identifying and developing. And deploying engineering solutions,” Wilson explained.

More people have died so far this year than there have been days this year. That’s over 200 deaths.

Officials say the initiative is a joint effort and emphasize that drivers must slow down and stop driving impaired – and distracted.

“It’s a choice. It’s a choice between driving sober or driving impaired. A choice between driving focused or driving distracted. A choice of buckling up and driving pursuant to the posted speed limit or being unrestrained and speeding” stated Lisa Freeman, the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission’s Executive Director.

Cell phones are the number one contributor to the rising number of deaths, and construction on roads is not ending soon. Authorities say it’s essential to put the phones away.

Wilson says he will be introducing legislation next session to require adults to take driving education courses.