This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, but here in Carson City, the Sheriff’s Office, Nevada Highway Patrol, and others are teaming up to prevent distracted driving year-round. Sheriff Ken Furlong is serious about eliminating traffic accidents, and Carson City has specifically adopted the U.S. Highway 50 corridor, notorious for serious and fatal accidents, as a target enforcement area.
Furlong has declared a “Zero Tolerance” policy and wants residents to know that officers are cracking down on distracted-driving violations. “If you get stopped, you will get a ticket,” he says. Asked what the No. 1 problem is, Furlong answers without hesitation, “Cellphones. They are enormously distracting and extremely dangerous.” The National Safety Council agrees, reporting that people who use cellphones while driving are four times more likely to be involved in a crash than those who don’t. Despite handheld cellphone use being illegal in Nevada since 2011, far too many drivers are still using the devices while driving. They are risking not just a ticket, but their lives.
Last year, 267 people were killed in Nevada as a result of traffic accidents, and many more suffered life-changing injuries. The people who are killed and injured in collisions are friends, family members and co-workers. It could be someone you know. That’s why the Zero Fatalities campaign from the Department of Transportation is so important. Based on the premise that even one traffic death is too many, Zero Fatalities urges drivers to be safe on Nevada’s roadways. Remember, when you’re on the road, driving is your top responsibility.
Always buckle up.
Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Focus on the road, not on other distractions, such as cell phones.
Watch out for pedestrians, cyclists and other road users.
Always stop on red.
Upcoming construction projects by the Nevada Department of Transportation on Highway 50 are aimed at improving road safety, but those projects cost money and take time. “In the meantime, we have to rely on our drivers,” said Furlong. There is some evidence that strategy is working. Since targeted enforcement on Highway 50 began in July, driver behavior has improved and there have been no head-on collisions on that stretch of road. Before the Sheriff’s Office began heavily patrolling Highway 50, some commuters had become fearful to travel on the road. Furlong says the intention of the project was to get the attention of drivers and the public, and he’s very happy with the results so far.
Traffic safety is an important issue for everyone and is an important public-health concern. Noemi Aschenbach, a nurse at Carson City Health and Human Services who regularly travels Highway 50, had this to say: “We’re all in a hurry to get somewhere. Slow down and respect fellow road users so we all can arrive safely.”