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‘Pay attention’: Half of those killed in January crashes were pedestrians

Updated February 1, 2024 - 6:12 pm

The number of Las Vegas Valley pedestrians killed in traffic crashes in January jumped 80 percent over January 2023 levels, according to an analysis of traffic fatalities reported by Southern Nevada law enforcement.

Those 16 pedestrian deaths accounted for nearly half of the valley’s 31 traffic fatalities in January. Of those, all but three occurred outside of crosswalks, the analysis showed.

Of the three people fatally injured inside designated areas in January, one was killed by a hit-and-run driver and another stepped onto the road against a do-not-walk signal, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. The circumstances of a Jan. 5 crash that critically injured a 20-year-old woman, who later died, were not immediately clear.

Traffic safety analysts note that pedestrian fatalities tend to fluctuate from month to month and caution that one particularly deadly month doesn’t mean the trend will continue all year, but January’s surge prompted law enforcement officials to urge motorists and pedestrians alike to take more care navigating the valley’s streets and roads.

Lt. Daryl Rhoads, part of Metro’s unit that investigates serious crashes, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Thursday that the overwhelming majority of fatal crashes were avoidable.

In less than a week, Rhoads’ team responded to Las Vegas crashes that had killed six people, and to the scene of a collision that left an 11-year-old bicyclist fighting for his life. He said complacency plays a big part in pedestrian fatalities; people used to jaywalking unharmed tend to underestimate the dangers of cars and trucks on the roads.

“Just because you see the vehicle doesn’t mean the vehicle sees you,” Rhoads said. And when a collision occurs, he added, “the pedestrian loses every single time.”

Rhoads recommends pedestrians take the extra steps toward designated crossing areas, and for those people to make eye contact with motorists before crossing. He warned motorists about following the law and avoiding distractions.

Metro is investigating 11 fatal pedestrian crashes as of Thursday afternoon. The Nevada Highway Patrol had investigated four, and Henderson police had responded to one. North Las Vegas police had not reported any traffic fatalities in the first month of the year. The 158 fatalities Metro investigated last year were about a 4 percent uptick compared with 2022, statistics show.

‘Save a life’

As the fatalities mounted, Metro took to social media to warn about dangers on valley roadways.

In a video filmed by the department from a scene of the crash that injured the 11-year-old cyclist on Cactus Avenue and Cliff Lake Street, Deputy Chief Chris Holmes put out a plea.

“I’m begging you to, please, when you drive up to an intersection for drivers to look left, look right, look left again please pay attention, obey traffic laws, save a life,” he said, “even if it’s yours.”

The next morning, police were called to another crash involving a child in a bike on Desert Inn and Cimarron roads. Metro said the cyclist was hospitalized with survivable injuries.

Meanwhile, Erin Breen, director of UNLV’s Road Equity Alliance and Vulnerable Road Users Project, advocated for tighter enforcement of traffic laws and making roads safer.

She said funds allocated from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act to Las Vegas and the Regional Transportation Commission will help improve traffic and driving issues with better road design.

“I have lots of hope that we will take what we have learned about traffic safety after World War II and apply it to what we know to the design of our streets,” Breen said.

“It’s absolutely devastating,” Rhoads said about responding to those crashes. “It pulls at your heart for their families.”

Sixteen lives

These were the 16 pedestrians killed in Las Vegas Valley crashes:

— Natalie Wyatt, 34, was hit by a vehicle as she crossed against a light early Jan. 1 on Flamingo Road and Boulder Highway, police said. She died days later.

— Mary Fleming, 64, was hit by a Jeep during a “torrential downpour of rain” the evening of Jan. 3 on Saint Rose Parkway, near Maryland Parkway, police said.

— A woman was hit shortly before noon on Jan. 5 on a crosswalk on North Eastern and Harris avenues, said Las Vegas police, who announced her death Thursday.

A GoFundMe campaign identified her as Brianni Trejo, a “bright and ambitious” Las Vegan who dreamed of becoming a nurse.

— Lihua Zhang, 59, of Las Vegas was hit shortly after 4 p.m. Jan. 5 on West Spring Mountain Road east of South Edmond Street.

— William H. Plant, 56, was struck the morning of Jan. 8 near Blue Diamond Road and Mohawk Street.

— Richard McGeever, 42, was struck in a hit-and-run crash the evening of Jan. 9 on East Tropicana Avenue and Rollingwood Circle.

— Andrew J Lopez Jr., 72, of Las Vegas, was hit the evening of Jan. 12 near Valley View Boulevard and Diablo Drive.

— Candice M. Szymborski, 32, of Henderson, was struck late on Jan. 17 near Sunset Road and Sunset Station.

— Jane Frances Moynihan, 74, of Aliso Viejo, California, was hit on the Spring Mountain Road Interstate 15 off-ramp when she was struck late on Jan. 18.

— Earlier that night, Morgon Monique Hanneman, 43, was on State Route 604 near Nellis Air Force base when she was struck.

— Eshban Barnard, 46, was struck the morning of Jan. 22 on Boulder Highway near Nellis Boulevard and later died.

— That night, an unidentified pedestrian was hit on East Flamingo Road, near Burnham Avenue.

— An unidentified pedestrian was on Interstate 15 near St. Rose Parkway when they were struck by a semi-truck the afternoon of Jan. 26.

— That night, a 41-year-old Las Vegas man was struck by an alleged DUI motorist in an unregistered vehicle on East Tropicana Avenue, near South Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas police said.

— Tyson R. Bailey, 27, of Las Vegas was hit on the Interstate 15 off-ramp of Sahara Avenue early morning on Jan. 27.

— A 31-year-old Las Vegas man was on a crosswalk the afternoon of Jan. 28 when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver at Lake Mead Boulevard and Tonopah Drive. Police later found the vehicle but not the driver.

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Review-Journal digital content producer Marvin Clemons contributed to this story.

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