Insurance Claims Confirm Crash Costs

Many of us only suspect that Las Vegas Valley drivers stink. Insurance agents know we're lousy. All they have to do is look at their workload.

A recent Allstate Insurance Co. review of its 2004 and 2005 claims data found that drivers that call the valley home are more likely to call their insurer and report a fender-bender, door-ding or smashed-up sedan.

The study indicated that Allstate's clients living in Las Vegas will get into a car crash every 7.9 years, a frequency greater than the typical Allstate customer nationwide who'll wreck once every 10 years.

Sin City settlers ranked 167th among the nation's 197 largest cities tallied by Allstate, which insures roughly one of every 10 drivers from coast to coast.

And it wasn't much better for residents in North Las Vegas (where drivers crashed once every 8.3 years, ranking 151st) or Henderson (9 years, 120th).

Southern Nevada towns fared poorly even when compared to most other Southwestern cities, including Reno (11.4 years, 30th); Tucson (10.4 years, 55th); Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Albuquerque (roughly 9.8 years, ranking 78th, 82nd and 83rd, respectively); and San Diego (9 years, 116th). But Los Angeles was a bit worse than we were (6.9 years, 185th).

While the report listed whose drivers were more crash-prone, the report didn't say why. But locals who make a living monitoring the demolition derby we call valley commuting have their suspicions.

A lot of their theories revolve around the things that make Vegas, Vegas: our anything-goes social norms, and the insane growth of Clark County that's bringing a new resident and their cars here every 7 minutes, jamming our increasingly crowded byways.

Throw in a multibillion-dollar shortfall in paying to fix our roads, and you have a recipe to put the offspring of tow truck drivers through the colleges of their choice, regardless of cost.

"We're a 24-hour city. We have a lot more traffic on the road" and at all times of the day, Capt. Tom Conlin, who heads the Metropolitan Police Department's traffic division, told Review-Journal reporter Paul Harasim recently. "If you have more traffic, you have more crashes.

"We have liberal liquor laws, with no last call. We have insane growth, with (more than) 6,000 new people arriving each month," Conlin said. "If even half of them have a car, that amounts to 36,000 new cars every year, and we're not developing new roads to accommodate them."

Agreed, said Sgt. Dave Smith of the North Las Vegas police's traffic bureau.

"The population increase and subsequent congestion are largely the reason for our increase in accidents," he said, adding that aggressive driving triggered by frustration with congestion can make wrecks far more deadly and traumatic than elsewhere.

Conlin said newcomers bring habits that may seem perfectly normal in the state of Maryland but are alien on Maryland Parkway.

"We also have drivers who've come from all over the world," Conlin said. "They bring their rules. They know how to drive in Great Britain and New Britain, Conn., not in Las Vegas.

"People may come here from Seattle and think they know how to drive on wet roads," Conlin said "But they don't know how to drive on our wet roads," which, when it rains, become super-slick with oil that builds up on roadways during the long gaps between rainfall.

Our never-ending night life doesn't just put drunks on the road at all times. It also fills the streets with the just plain sleepy.

"In a 24-hour town, you have a lot of shift workers and they're often driving while drowsy," Conlin said. "That's just as bad as driving while drunk. They're just as impaired."

So are drivers who are absorbed with their cell phone conversations, walkers who jaywalk instead of crossing streets at controlled crosswalks, and scooters that zip in and out of traffic with obliviousness, according to Conlin.

What to do? Allstate said safety starts with drivers themselves.

The company urges drivers to avoid distractions like fiddling with a radio or phone; use caution when driving in poor weather; take rest breaks on long drives; resist road rage by allowing plenty of time for travel and biting your tongue around rude drivers; and make sure your car is in tip-top shape under the hood.

The state isn't waiting for drivers to figure out things on their own. Officials have formed the Nevada Executive Committee on Traffic Safety, which is made up of representatives from police, emergency response, traffic, engineering, safety and education agencies to discuss traffic safety improvements.

And that group has crafted a statewide traffic safety plan, aimed at eventually preventing one in every four Nevada driving deaths.

That plan endorses targeted police enforcement, the redesign of various roads, better driver education campaigns, improved emergency responses to crashes and new ways to analyze data of where and why wrecks happen.

Problem is, those efforts will take a lot of time, money and manpower to bear fruit.

In the meantime, you might want to make sure your auto insurance policy is up to date. The odds aren't in your favor.

If you have a question, tip or tirade, call the Road Warrior at 387-2904, or e-mail him at or Please include your phone number.