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Police emphasize traffic safety as pedestrian fatalities rise in Las Vegas

Las Vegan Jill Whitfield says walking daily in the area of Boulder Highway and Desert Inn Road in east Las Vegas can often feel like survival of the fittest.

Even when Whitfield has the right of way in a crosswalk, she always makes sure to keep an eye out for distracted motorists and other drivers who have little regard for pedestrians.

“The people turn right, they don’t pay attention,” Whitfield said shortly after a police press conference about pedestrian safety. “They don’t even look to see if a person is standing here. I can’t tell you the times I’ve almost been hit.”

Moments earlier on Tuesday, the Metropolitan Police Department highlighted the latest figures that showed what Whitfield already knew: being a pedestrian in Las Vegas is increasingly dangerous. So far in 2022, 36 pedestrians have been struck and killed by vehicles in the Las Vegas police jurisdiction. That represents a 33 percent increase over 2021 when 27 died during the same time frame.

“We have to do something about it,” said traffic Lt. Daryl Rhoads. “We have to come forward. Enforcement efforts alone are not enough. Education efforts alone are not enough. Improving our roadways, engineering alone, is not enough. We all have to come together to make sure we address this problem.”

Boulder Highway has been particularly dangerous, with a 15-mile stretch accounting for almost 10 percent of the total pedestrian fatalities in the state. The highway is scheduled for a revamp after Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., helped secure a $40 million federal grant. The Regional Transportation Commission also said it is carrying out a long-term plan to improve safety while accommodating growth from Charleston Boulevard to Wagon Wheel Drive.

Local governments are also working to improve safety as traffic fatalities for both pedestrians and motorists remain a persistent problem across Nevada. Clark County commissioners recently voted to require that all new roads wider than 60 feet include detached sidewalks, putting more space between pedestrians and vehicles.

Rhoads said Tuesday that pedestrians play an important role in improving safety by engaging in some simple steps. Of the 36 pedestrian fatalities so far this year, 27 involved pedestrians who were at fault because they were not in crosswalks.

“Just because the signal turns green and gives you the opportunity to walk out there does not mean it is safe to do so,” Rhoads said. “Just because you have the right of way to go into that crosswalk and cross the street doesn’t mean it is safe. Stop. Look both ways. Left, then right, then left again.”

He said motorists driving distracted or impaired are also contributors to the problem.

“Stop driving distracted,” he said. “Get off of your phones. All of these fatalities could have been prevented with some of the rules we are talking about.”

Contact Glenn Puit at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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