The long, flat, monotonous jaunt through the Mojave Desert along Interstate 15 entices drivers to slam the pedal down in hopes of shaving time off their commutes.
That area of I-15, from Barstow, Calif., to Las Vegas, is also considered one of the deadliest stretches of highway in the nation due to its high number of fatal and serious crashes, according to Nevada Highway Patrol spokesman and trooper Loy Hixson, but that’s changing.
Since January, troopers have been patrolling the area with an uncompromising attitude toward traffic violations as part of the Highway Patrol’s Zero Tolerance program.
“If there is a violation, you are going to get stopped,” Hixson said.
The Zero Tolerance program targets the 26-mile stretch of I-15 from St. Rose Parkway to Primm, at Nevada’s border with California. The program aims to reduce accidents by targeting all violations, no matter how small, in hopes of changing the way motorists traverse the highway.
“It has nothing to do with the road, but the people who are impatient,” California Highway Patrol spokesman Don Spiker said last week.
His agency is looking at stricter enforcement on the Golden State’s stretch of I-15.
According to Hixson, it is relatively common to catch drivers exceeding 100 mph.
He recalled being posted in the area that falls under Zero Tolerance for just three minutes before clocking someone at or above that speed.
The average speed for vehicles pulled over is about 95 mph, 25 mph over the posted limit, he said.
Nevada Highway Patrol has seen its efforts pay off.
Comparing the first six months of 2012 to the same period of 2013, the total number of injury accidents in the Zero Tolerance area has been cut by more than 50 percent, Hixson said. The number of citations troopers issued in the area went up from about 6,000 for the first six months of 2012, to nearly 8,000 for the same period in 2013.
In 2013, there has been just one fatal crash in the Zero Tolerance zone of I-15, compared to four in 2012.
Both Hixson and Spiker agreed on a key factor in reducing the number of accidents. “The visual presence is big for us,” Spiker said.
The success of the program is being noticed in Northern Nevada as well.
According to Hixson, the Nevada Highway Patrol plans to implement a similar program along Highway 50, which stretches across the state from Carson City to Ely. The two-lane roadway has many of the same issues as I-15, offering motorists long stretches with little to keep the mind occupied.
“That is a very boring road,” Nevada Highway Patrol trooper Dave Gibson said. “People start to get tired, sleepy. They just start to get fatigued.”
California Highway Patrol, which polices I-15 once it crosses into the Golden State, understands the need for an increased presence with stricter enforcement.
“Back in the ’90s, we would get well over 100 fatals a year,” Spiker said. He added that number fell to the mid-30s last year. According to Hixson and Spiker, their law enforcement agencies have been communicating in recent weeks on how to apply the Zero Tolerance plan in California to further reduce fatalities.
Hixson said the idea is to change the mentality of drivers .
“It’s not something temporary,” Hixson said, noting that the program will likely be extended well into 2014. “We are going to continue to try to save lives.”
Contact reporter Colton Lochhead at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4638. Follow him on Twitter @clochhead44.