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Fatal crashes involving DUI on the rise

Updated August 15, 2022 - 8:37 am

Nevada is seeing an unfortunate trend with a rising rate of fatal crashes involving impairment.

Since 2016, 55.6 percent of all fatal wrecks involved motorists, bicyclists or pedestrians being under the influence of drugs, alcohol or a combination of both, according to the Nevada Department of Public Safety.

“Of course, because impairment affects the decisions of all of us,” Nevada Department of Transportation Director Kristina Swallow said during the department’s board meeting last week.

The annual percentage has been on the rise between 2018 and 2021, going from 53.5 percent of deadly crashes involving impairment four years ago to 58.3 percent last year.

“Fatal crashes involving an impaired person have increased over this time period,” Swallow said. “It has accelerated since the pandemic began.”

Between 2020 and 2021, fatal wrecks alone jumped 19 percent year-over-year, Swallow noted.

Fatalities where more than one substance — excluding marijuana — was in the motorist’s system at the time of the crash jumped from 102 in 2020 to 114 last year.

Fatal wrecks with just alcohol in the system of the driver at fault increased from 38 in 2020 to 47 last year. Fatal crashes with just marijuana involved rose by just one death, going from 37 in 2020 to 38 in 2021. Those involving a driver intoxicated only on a drug other than marijuana went up from 13 in 2020 to 16 last year.

The unfortunate trend doesn’t appear to be stopping in 2022 as just last week there were multiple fatal crashes in which a motorist was suspected to be under the influence.

With the continued increase of fatal crashes caused by impaired drivers, Swallow said NDOT and law enforcement need to remain vigilant to ensure all is being done to combat impaired driving.

But when it comes to impaired driving, Swallow said, it always boils down to those behind the wheel.

“In this case this is really a role of education and enforcement,” Swallow said. “So the more we can enforce, the more we can educate about the impact and the better we are going to be in this space.”

Fatal crashes in Nevada

All fatal crashes in Nevada are on pace with last year’s mark through the first seven months of the year.

There have been 211 deaths on Nevada roads through July, the same number the state recorded during the same time period last year, according to the Department of Public Safety.

Of those, 142 traffic deaths have occurred in Clark County, up 19 percent compared to last year through July when there were 119 deaths on Southern Nevada roadways.

Forty-three pedestrians have been killed, a number that will jump in August’s report as three pedestrians were killed in separate incidents on the same day last week. Another 47 deaths are tied to motorists not wearing seat belts, further highlighting the dangerous nature of Las Vegas Valley roadways for vulnerable users.

The state noted, as it has in each of the monthly fatal crash reports for the last several years, that speed and impairment are the top contributing factors when it comes to crashes.

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter. Send questions and comments to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com.

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