Gibbons rolls out highway safety plan

Gov. Jim Gibbons said Tuesday he'd rather reach the goal of reducing annual traffic fatalities next year by convincing drivers to slow down and pay attention. But for those who won't listen, he and Public Safety Director Phil Galeoto said the highway patrol and local law enforcement will make the point by writing tickets.

They, along with Nevada Department of Transportation Director Susan Martinovich rolled out the Nevada Strategic Highway Safety Plan developed over the past year in conjunction with local law enforcement, education, the cities and counties among others.

Gibbons said reducing the number of people killed and injured on Nevada roads and highways is among his top priorities. And he said he wants the more than 400 killed each year reduced by at least 100 next year.

"The goal is zero fatalities," he said in a press conference in front of the Capitol.

Martinovich said the plan focuses on education, engineering improvements, emergency response, better data collection, as well as enforcement.

"Unfortunately, if we ask you to slow down and you don't, we write you tickets," said Galeoto.

Asked about drivers who aren't obviously violating laws but just aren't paying attention because they are eating, on a cell phone or otherwise distracted, he said they will face citations.

"If they're not paying attention, we have the authority to pull them over," he said. "They have to focus on their driving."

Gibbons said the education component of the plan includes issuing graduated licenses for younger drivers and developing a system to ensure that older drivers aren't losing their skills. He said there will be a heavy emphasis on impaired drivers and a focus on making sure all drivers wear their seat belts.

Asked if he supports allowing law enforcement to stop drivers they don't think are wearing belts as a primary offense, Gibbons said he does.

"I do favor that," he said. "Sometimes by enforcement, by giving them a ticket, it saves their lives."

Galeoto said a large percentage of fatalities occur when the driver or passenger not wearing a belt is thrown from the vehicle in a crash. No seat belt is a factor in nearly half of fatal crashes.

Another focus, they said, is pedestrian fatalities. Galeoto said drivers have to pay attention to people crossing the street and that pedestrians have to stick to cross walks and pay attention to oncoming traffic. He said both are responsible for preventing an accident.

Nevada Highway Patrol Col. Chris Perry said the patrol issues about 8,000 tickets a month, about half in Clark County. He said with the push for safety, those numbers will go up. NHP's focus, Perry said, will be on hazardous moving violations and impaired drivers.

He said intensive enforcement teams will be rotated around the state to different problem areas to help drivers focus better on their driving.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.

Fatalities between 1998 and 2002

Pedestrians: 276

Alcohol impairment: 464

Unbelted occupants: 780

Ran off the road: 675


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