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August 2, 2015

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public safety:

Santa Claus crosses Nellis to make the case for pedestrian safety

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Leila Navidi

Officer Michael Lemley of Metro’s Traffic Bureau goes undercover as “Officer Cringle” walking across N. Nellis Blvd. at Cedar Ave. on a marked crosswalk in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011.

Pedestrian Santa

Officer Michael Lemley of Metro's Traffic Bureau goes undercover as Launch slideshow »

Forget grandma getting run over by a reindeer.

Santa almost got run over by a Chevy — walking through a crosswalk a few days before Christmas Eve. People say there’s no such thing as pedestrian safety.

Just ask Santa. He agrees.

“He almost hit me!” Officer Michael Lemley yelled into a police radio, as a white pickup truck barreled south on Nellis Boulevard.

Santa narrowly escaped a Christmas catastrophe. Despite his red velvet suit, shiny black boots and fluffy white beard, several motorists in just an hour failed to stop when Lemley crossed the street.

Those who failed made his naughty list.

Officers stationed several hundred feet away on either end of the crosswalk pulled over the motorists, primarily for two offenses: failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk and passing a stopped vehicle.

Metro Police and UNLV’s Safe Community Partnership coordinated the enforcement event Tuesday morning to raise awareness about pedestrian safety, which garnered much attention in the fall following several fatalities. The group moved to 11th Street and Charleston Boulevard in the afternoon.

Twenty-nine pedestrians have died in Clark County so far this year, said Lemley, an officer in Metro’s traffic bureau. That number is down from 32 fatalities at this point last year, but police aren’t satisfied.

“The main issue is you need to just get your head up and look where you’re going,” he said, referring to both motorists and pedestrians.

Police chose the Nellis Boulevard and Cedar Avenue location based on accident statistics and community complaints. It’s a marked crosswalk in a school zone, but there’s not a traffic light.

Add in the 45-mph speed limit during nonschool hours, and it can be dicey situation.

But did Santa experience any jitters as he crossed the boulevard?

“Oh, absolutely,” Lemley said. Bulletproof vests can’t stop cars, he said.

Back and forth, Santa walked, waving to some motorists and taking note of others. At one point, a red sport utility vehicle heading north on Nellis stopped just short of the crosswalk, then stalled.

“That’s got to be embarrassing,” Lemley said.

At least the SUV stopped. Others whizzed through the crosswalk.

Despite those motorists’ oblivion, Santa’s presence caught the eye of passing children.

“Santa Claus!” Alaysah Davis shrieked as she hopped out of a car at a nearby Taco Bell.

The beaming 6-year-old made a beeline for the man in red.

“She made me pull over the car,” her mother, Carrie McNeely, said. “She said, ‘Santa is on the street!’ ”

Maybe children have the most common sense, after all.

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