In spite of increased attention given to pedestrian deaths in and around Las Vegas, the death toll continues to rise. With half of 2017 gone by, the most recent Nevada FARS report indicates that pedestrian deaths just in Clark County have increased 65 percent over the same period last year. So far in 2017, 38 pedestrian deaths have been report, compared to 23 as of June 2016.
Perhaps it’s easy to blame Las Vegas drivers for this increase, however, it may not be that easy. Many, many pedestrian accidents occur outside of marked crosswalks. In the last few days, there have been two news reports of pedestrian fatalities, both of which involved elderly pedestrians who were not using a crosswalk in different parts of town.
Erin Breen, Director of UNLV’s Vulnerable Road Users Project, said, “We’ve created this environment that’s great for cars, not so great for humans.” She is among many other experts who have concluded that Las Vegas roads are not designed in a pedestrian friendly way.
Metro and other police agencies in the Valley have focused on pedestrian safety during “blitzes” on busy Las Vegas roadways, targeting pedestrians not using crosswalks, and drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. But this problem is larger than an increased police presence will affect.
Both drivers and pedestrians must be more vigilant to avoid pedestrian accidents. Reduced speed limits and drivers exercising increased control and slowing down will do much to stem this epidemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that reducing speed by 5 mph reduces roadway deaths by 30 percent.
Local communities are also doing their part by redesigning pedestrian spaces. Downtown Henderson is building wider sidewalks. Las Vegas is changing streetlights to give more light to drivers and pedestrians. Speed limits on Maryland Parkway, for example, have been reduced to 30 mph between Tropicana and Owens Avenue; and medians have been added in the UNLV area to allow pedestrians to stop mid-way though the cross walk and to allow for eye contact between drivers and pedestrians
One high-risk area for pedestrians in Clark County is Boulder Highway. NDOT has been improving Boulder Highway to increase pedestrian safety. Nearly one tenth of the state’s pedestrian fatalities over the last 10 years have occurred on Boulder Highway. Even with the improvements, however, one of the fatalities that occurred this week happened on Boulder Highway.
The Review-Journal reports that most pedestrian accidents occur between the hours of 6 PM and midnight. Especially in hotspots around the valley, such as Boulder Highway, but also on any wide street with 8 lanes of traffic, increased awareness, particularly after dark, is required to avoid collisions between cars and people. Perhaps Erin Breen says it best: “We need drivers and pedestrians to be responsible and predictable.”
For pedestrians, only use crosswalks when attempting to cross a street. Cross at street corners, if no crosswalk exists. A street corner is automatically considered a pedestrian crossing, even if unmarked. For drivers, slowdown in general, but especially in high-risk areas, where pedestrians are known to cross. For all, after 6 PM be extra vigilant due to decreased visibility.
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