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EDITORIAL: Recklessness of NLV crash shocks the conscience

Shock. Anguish. Horror. Anger. These are just some of the emotions stirred up by last weekend’s car crash that killed nine people.

Gary Robinson drove a Dodge Challenger through a red light at a North Las Vegas intersection on Saturday. He was going more than 100 mph and slammed into a minivan carrying seven members of the same family. That set off a chain reaction involving six cars and 15 people. The seven people in the minivan, including four children, died. Robinson and his passenger were also killed.

“Our world has ended,” said Erlinda Zacarias, who lost four children, two stepchildren and a brother. She and her husband, Jesus Mejia-Santana, now “have to live for each other, because we have nothing to live for.” The depth of pain is incomprehensible.

The Las Vegas Valley mourns with them. As of midweek, a GoFundMe page to cover funeral expenses has raised more than $270,000. It’s yet another reminder of the compassion inherent in the Southern Nevada community. The family had just left Craig Ranch Regional Park, like many families do every day. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But this crash itself didn’t happen by chance. It occurred because Gary Robinson showed complete disregard for the rules of the road and other drivers, traveling more than 100 mph on a city street and roaring through a red light. That death and destruction would follow such a selfish choice was too predictable. This shocking event was easily avoidable.

Law enforcement officials revealed that Robinson had received at least five speeding tickets over the past 15 months, including a citation for going 91 mph on an interstate. He also had several prior arrests in Las Vegas and was convicted of battery on an officer and drug charges. An occasional traffic ticket shouldn’t lead to jail time, but there’s an obvious problem when a driver can rack up regular citations every few months with minimal consequence.

Democratic lawmakers have pushed to reduce criminal penalties and cash bail in recent years. They also decriminalized some traffic offenses. Some of these reforms made sense, but this tragedy highlights how such efforts should be implemented with the understanding that there are certain serial offenders who must be taken off the streets.

Las Vegas’s reputation for bad drivers is well-deserved. But perhaps the horrific extent of this crash triggers a renewed commitment among local motorists to be more attentive to their surroundings, to other drivers and to the rules of the road. It truly is a matter of life and death.

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