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COMMENTARY: More must be done on pedestrian safety in Las Vegas

Mick Akers’ April 1 Road Warrior column in the wake of the March death of 12-year-old Jonathan Smith called for both drivers and pedestrians to be alert on the road. The boy was crossing south Fort Apache Road with two friends when he was stuck and killed by a vehicle.

It is certainly the responsibility of both drivers and pedestrians to be alert on the road. However, by focusing responsibility on individual users, Mr. Akers fails to recognize the ongoing pattern of people being struck and killed by cars while walking in Las Vegas. Jonathan Smith’s death was not an isolated incident, where one person may have failed to been adequately alert. It was the latest in a pattern of deaths that will almost certainly continue without corrective action.

Nevada is the 11th most dangerous state for pedestrians, and Las Vegas is the 24th most dangerous metro area nationwide. In Nevada’s 1st Congressional District alone, drivers struck and killed 287 people between 2008 and 2017. Not only that, but the problem is getting worse: In 2016 the Las Vegas metro region’s Pedestrian Danger Index was 118. In 2019, it has risen to an alarming 129.

Systematic failures need solutions at a larger scale than individual behavior change. The public officials and agency staff who design, build and maintain Las Vegas’ roads are responsible in part for these deaths and must be part of the solution.

In the next several weeks, Congress will consider its next major transportation bill. This event happens only once every several years and will direct billions of dollars in infrastructure projects and spending.

This is a crucial opportunity for Reps. Dina Titus and Susie Lee to bring home funding for pedestrian safety projects in Las Vegas, and to help other communities across the country that are grappling with similar trends.

If you have ever crossed a street in Las Vegas, this is about your safety. It’s also about the safety of our most vulnerable neighbors — children, older adults and people in low-income communities — who are some of the most tragic and disproportionately impacted victims of fatal collisions. We encourage Reps. Titus and Lee to use their positions and voice to protect people who walk in Las Vegas. Lives are depending on it.

Emiko Atherton is director of the National Complete Streets Coalition. Beth Osborne is director of Transportation for America. They write from Washington, D.C.

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