Updated September 18, 2023 - 7:03 pm
Traffic safety advocates said the key to preventing the death of the community’s most vulnerable road users comes down to individual responsibility as well as improving road designs.
So far this year, 20 children have died on Las Vegas Valley roads in traffic crashes, up slightly compared with the number of deaths this time last year, according to the Clark County coroner’s office.
Most recently, 1-year-old Knowledge Schuster died in a hit-and-run crash in North Las Vegas near Interstate 15 and Cheyenne Avenue.
The coroner said three cases, including Schuster’s, are still pending an official cause and manner of death.
During the same time period last year, 17 children died in traffic crashes. The total for the year ended up being 20. This year and last were up from 2021 when a total of 14 children died, according to the coroner.
The children who died were passengers, drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists.
Schuster was not the youngest child killed in a crash so far this year.
Six-month-old Eythan Machado died in early March days after a drunk driver ran a red light, causing a three-vehicle crash at Nellis Boulevard and Vegas Valley Drive.
While there are more bike lanes and other vulnerable road user-friendly designs, fatalities are up from years past, he said.
“We had zero infrastructure back then and there weren’t as many injuries and fatalities as there are now,” Treichel said. “Drivers were not as distracted. Drivers didn’t have multimedia in their cars and a computer in their hand.”
Distracted drivers combined with more road rage has created a cocktail of danger for everyone using the roads, Treichel said.
He suggested the following measures parents and children can use to stay safe.
Always wear a helmet no matter if you’re on a motorcycle, bike or scooter. Treichel said nearly everyone killed in traffic crashes dies from head trauma.
Ride with traffic if on a bike or scooter and go against traffic when walking or running.
Parents should spend time with their children going over where the safe routes are nearby. These should be well lit and preferably include a bike lane.
Always assume a motorist doesn’t see you. Make eye contact with them before crossing in front of their path.
Legislation and road design
In June, Gov. Joe Lombardo signed Senate Bill 322, which was named Rex’s Law in memory of 13-year-old Rex Patchett. In March 2022, Patchett was riding a scooter on the sidewalk in front of Mannion Middle School in Henderson when a driver going 90 mph lost control and struck Patchett.
The law increased the sentences for reckless driving resulting in substantial bodily harm or death in instances where someone drives more than 50 mph over the speed limit or was in a school zone or pedestrian safety zone at the time of the collision. The penalty is now six to 10 years in prison.
Treichel said that while this kind of legislation can make a difference, it will take more effort.
“Let’s face it, if people are distracted or let alone impaired they’re not going to say, ‘Hey I don’t want to do this because this could be a bigger-than-normal penalty.’ There just isn’t that train of thought,” he said. “So I think a lot of us have to take it upon ourselves to be cautious and take whatever safety measures we can but at the same time educate and really, really get the word out there to drivers.”
Treichel said a surefire way to prevent vehicle versus pedestrian or bike crashes is creating designated roads for pedestrians or a physical barrier between motorists and all other road users.
Tony Capsouto, vice president of the Southern Nevada Bicycle Coalition, said his organization works with local governments and agencies such as the Regional Transportation Commission to help design safer roads.
Some of these improvements include installing 36-inch-wide sidewalks and paved pathways for pedestrians. He said many valley roads lead to chokepoints where multiple lanes merge down to one lane for a bicyclist.
“A $5 bucket of paint isn’t going to separate you from a 5,000-pound car,” Capsouto said.