The Metropolitan Police Department has seen at least 163 homicides within its giant jurisdiction this year. But would you believe, in that same span of space and time, almost 120 people were also killed in traffic crashes?
That doesn’t even include crashes on highways, which fall under the Nevada Highway Patrol’s jurisdiction. It also doesn’t include Henderson or North Las Vegas, the latter of which saw a triple-fatal crash just a week ago, in which three women — one of whom was pregnant — died after a man in a sedan blew through a stop sign and slammed into them.
The holiday season can only compound the issue. This year, the Las Vegas Valley is expected to see a surge of tourists visiting relatives and the Strip. AAA ranked Las Vegas as its most popular holiday destination this year, based on bookings with the motor club. And this year, the club reported, most holiday travelers — nearly 94 million of them — will be driving.
So what should you do, whether in Las Vegas or elsewhere, other than slow down and stay off your phone?
To start, use your seat belts, said Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Danny Cordero. Though it’s a simple suggestion, it’s ignored commonly, sometimes simply out of convenience.
Metro Sgt. Paul McCullough, who investigates fatal crashes, knows this firsthand.
“It blows my mind that we still go to traffic crashes where people were graphically ejected,” he said. Just this week, he responded to two separate crashes in which people didn’t buckle up — in the first, two people ejected died; in the second, one man who was ejected survived, albeit barely.
“Clearly, if he had a seat belt on, he’d be in a much better condition than he is in today,” McCullough said.
As of Dec. 17, Metro had seen 118 traffic fatalities, tying last year’s total as of the same date. McCullough added that about 40 percent of those crashes involved someone driving under the influence.
Next year, Metro’s traffic unit will be dedicating more resources to increasing enforcement on DUIs, McCullough said.
As for what you can do before 2017?
“Enjoy the holidays but do it responsibly,” Cordero said. “Coming into the holiday season, we know everyone wants to go out and enjoy their family and friends, but we want everyone to get home safely.”
Cordero offered a strong reminder that the holiday season also includes New Year’s Eve — especially in Las Vegas, one of the nation’s most popular destinations for when the clock strikes midnight.
“Buzzed driving is drunk driving,” Cordero blurted out, a statement that again seems obvious but is often ignored. “There are many options — rideshare like Uber and Lyft, regular taxis, buses, designated drivers.”
There are also other options, like Designated Drivers, Inc., which will take you home in your own vehicle for a $60 flat fee.
“They can either take a ride (with those options) or they can take a ride with Metro to the detention center,” Cordero said. “Our officers will be out there, enforcing the law.”
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Contact Rachel Crosby at email@example.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter.