Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011 | 2 a.m.
There has been a string of tragic accidents in which people have been hit by vehicles. The incident in which a car slammed into three children crossing the street in North Las Vegas, killing one of them, is particularly heartbreaking.
The crashes have raised the troubling issue of pedestrian safety in Las Vegas, which sadly isn’t new. There have been studies and stories and discussion about the problem for years. There have been several attempts to improve things over the past several years — including a law essentially used to pin the blame on the pedestrian if the person was outside of a crosswalk, no matter if the driver was drunk, high or reckless. Thankfully, that has changed.
Still, the number of pedestrian fatalities and the accidents involving pedestrians is too high. As Sun reporter Kyle Hansen recently reported, there were more than 2,000 injuries and 84 people killed in 2,060 crashes in Clark County over the three-year period that ended July 31.
We have heard any number of reasons for the high number of accidents involving pedestrians. The design of many of the valley’s streets have created conditions that aren’t very friendly to pedestrians. There are long blocks with few crosswalks that lead to the temptation to jaywalk. Many wide boulevards, with long stretches between traffic lights, allow drivers to go at near highway speeds. Few streetlights on some roads can make it hard to see at night. And the region’s round-the-clock schedule puts traffic on the road at all hours and includes tired drivers and those who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
What should be done?
Certainly, the Legislature should look at the law to see what can be done to improve safety. UNLV is among the research centers where traffic and pedestrian safety are being studied with the use of simulators and computers, and police should examine ways to better enforce existing laws.
It remains to be seen, for instance, whether the ban on the use of cell phones without a hands-free device will be effective. And nothing can address all the distractions faced by drivers, especially along the Strip where pedestrians — distracted as well — clog sidewalks and intersections and sometimes dart across traffic mid-block as if they’re playing the video game Frogger.
If there are better ways to improve the law or the roads, they should be pursued. However, the ultimate responsibility lies with those who use the roads — the drivers and the pedestrians. One group is more vulnerable than the other, but both must be equally alert.
Sgt. Richard Strader of Metro’s fatal accident detail told Hansen, “The focus is on making everybody do what they’re supposed to do.
This should be obvious: Drivers shouldn’t drive while impaired, should limit distractions and pay attention while they’re driving. And yes, drivers should slow down at yellow lights, stop at red lights, make full stops at stop signs, yield for pedestrians and generally be careful. Pedestrians also should be careful and not weave in and out of traffic or cut cars off to run across a street. They should not assume oncoming motorists will see them, or will stop.
“The public just needs to use common sense,” Strader said. “I’m talking about pedestrians and drivers.”
Indeed. Many incidents could be avoided if people, both drivers and pedestrians, paid more attention. A little common sense doesn’t just go a long way; it can prevent a tragedy.
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