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Distracted walking another hazard on busy vegas streets

With the Strip and a resurgence of the downtown area, Las Vegas is taking steps toward becoming a more walkable city.

A recent online survey — conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America — compared some major U.S. cities based on the ability of residents to use walking as a main source of transportation for living, working, shopping and visiting sites. The poll found that one in four Americans (26 percent) considers Las Vegas to be one of the most walkable cities in the country.

However, 32 percent of Americans also say that Las Vegas is one of the cities in which you are most likely to witness a high number of distracted pedestrians — people walking while using a cellphone or other electronic device.

Multitasking while walking down the Strip seems like a good idea, but doing so means pedestrians are taking their eyes off their surroundings and limiting their ability to react to a dangerous situation. The Las Vegas-Henderson area already contends with traffic tie-ups, construction, poor road conditions and distracted, impaired and aggressive drivers — all of which have likely contributed to a recent surge in auto accidents and injuries.

Distracted walking adds yet another hazard to Clark County’s already dangerous streets.

Pedestrians glued to smartphones put themselves as well as motorists in greater danger. Based on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s data, pedestrian deaths in 2014 accounted for 23 percent of all traffic fatalities in Las Vegas. Nevada’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan reports that between 2009 and 2013, 247 pedestrians were killed and 736 were seriously injured on Nevada roadways.

The numbers show that 9 percent of fatalities or serious injuries in the state were caused by inattentive pedestrians.

This is not just a Las Vegas problem. Distracted walking is an increasing hazard on our roads all across the country. There were 4,884 pedestrians in the United States killed in traffic crashes in 2014 — a 2 percent increase from the previous year.

In addition to safety concerns, distracted walking is another contributing factor in the growing number of traffic accidents. Auto accidents in Nevada increased by 8 percent in 2015 and the state ranked fourth among the top 10 states in terms of the biggest increase in crashes, according to a recent analysis of auto insurance claims by PCI.

The surge in traffic accidents and injuries on Nevada roads is a major safety concern and increases costs for all consumers. With the alarming increase in auto accidents, fatalities in the state have increased four years in a row. As a result of the surge in accidents, Nevada’s injury and vehicle damage claim frequency has been climbing, and its growth rate since 2013 is now fifth highest in the nation.

The costs associated with the rising number of claims pressure auto insurance premiums and could lead to increases in what Nevada drivers pay for auto insurance.

Distracted driving and walking are just one cause for the increase in accidents and claim costs. Our cars have become more advanced and expensive to fix, and medical costs to treat injuries are skyrocketing. Nevada also seen an above-average increase in older drivers who are more prone to injury from accidents. Congested roads in Las Vegas contribute to the 20 percent of roads in poor condition, which contributes to accidents.

What is the solution?

Some states have introduced legislation banning walking while texting or outlawing the use of electronic communication devices on public roads. Whether those measures will gain traction across the country remains to be seen, but education and awareness about the dangers of distracted walking and driving are just as important.

Summer’s here and we all want to be out enjoying all that Las Vegas has to offer. So let’s keep our heads up and pay attention to where we’re going so we can all reach our destinations safely.

Mark Sektnan is vice president of state affairs for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

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