Lyft offers big assist in fight against drunken driving in Las Vegas

It all began with a newsletter from the office of Las Vegas City Councilman Stavros Anthony, whose Ward 4 includes a good chunk of Summerlin. The letter contained an article that talked about Lyft Las Vegas pledging $100,000 in free ride credits for impaired drivers throughout 2018.

Rideshare company Lyft has become part of a coalition of almost a dozen public and private entities in Las Vegas that is aligned with a national campaign known as Zero Fatalities. The coalition, which includes the city, Metropolitan Police Department, Nevada Highway Patrol and Las Vegas Monorail, provides education, guidance and other means to discourage drunken driving.

“I’ve got to commend Lyft for this,” said Anthony, a retired captain in Metro. “I can honestly say it will save lives. And I hope it serves as an incentive to get others involved.”

According to a survey released recently in the AARP Bulletin, Nevada is tied for third place with the District of Columbia for the nation’s rate of heaviest senior drinkers, just behind Alaska and Wisconsin.

Andrew Bennett, a spokesman for the Nevada Department of Public Safety, Office of Traffic Safety, said Lyft approached his office about seven months ago.

“Shortly afterward they submitted the pledge of $100,000. It was unprecedented nationally,” he said. Under terms of the pledge, any person planning to spend time binging on alcohol can call Lyft Las Vegas for a ride to and from wherever they plan to be drinking and receive financial credit toward their transportation bill.

Nevada DOT in 2014 launched the movement for a statewide plan to better control the growing problem of highway deaths and serious injuries due to impaired drivers, Bennett said. In 2010 Nevada joined Zero Fatalities, a program endorsed by the Federal Highway Authority and several other federal agencies. Forty-two states are involved.

The state also encouraged creation of the Nevada Strategic Highway Safety Plan, which, according to its most recent report, is “a comprehensive statewide safety plan that identifies the greatest causes of fatalities and serious injuries on Nevada roadways and provides a coordinated framework for reducing the crashes that cause fatalities and serious injuries.”

The plan identified the six most critical types of those accidents. At the top of the list is impaired driving, which contributed to 31 percent of roadway deaths and serious injuries in Clark County in 2012-16.

In the state’s highway-safety plan for 2016-20, one of the four strategies it cites for lowering the numbers of DUI deaths and injuries is to “eliminate repeat DUI offenses” by initiating “innovative new programs.” Bennett mentioned that Lyft and the coalition in Las Vegas provide the kind of program that fits that strategy.

A 2017 supplement to the current plan provides detailed statistics that reveal a gradual annual decrease in the number of DUI deaths and injuries since Nevada joined Zero Fatalities.

Bennett also noted that the number of DUIs in Clark County dropped by 15 percent for the New Year’s holiday period of 2017-18 compared with the same time frame in 2016-17.

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey. His most recent novel, “Double Play,” is now available. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.

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