Crosswalk safety an issue in Carson City | NevadaAppeal.com

Crosswalk safety an issue in Carson City

Deputy Darin Riggin radios the description of a vehicle of a motorist who failed to stop as he crossed Carson Street in a crosswalk during a pedestrian safety event in May 2015.
Nevada Appeal File Photo | Nevada Appeal File Photo

Pedestrian safety is becoming a problem Carson City officials say.

Since 2015, there have been four fatal pedestrian vs. vehicle crashes in Carson City, and three just since the start of 2016. Most of these incidents are occurring when pedestrians are in the crosswalk.

Three incidents have occurred in crosswalks near Highway 50 since the beginning of 2016, with the most recent incident on March 2 when a 46-year-old woman was struck and killed near SlotWorld while in the crosswalk. This was the second incident in which a pedestrian was killed in the area in the last three months.

“We haven’t seen a bad year yet, but it is sad that all we have to do is look back a few months and we have had two fatalities in a three block area,” said Sheriff Ken Furlong.

Zero Fatalities Nevada said the state is facing an epidemic of pedestrian deaths, and is starting a new campaign called ePEDemic.org. It’s focusing on teaching drivers and pedestrians to be safer on the roads.

The campaign states since 2009, there have been more than 700 pedestrians statewide killed or seriously injured from 2009 to 2013. Sixty six percent of fatalities occur midblock and 43 percent occur after dark.

Many of Carson City’s pedestrian problem areas are because of a lack of lighting near the crosswalk to properly illuminate or warn drivers about people in the crosswalk.

Three crosswalks in Carson City have illuminated flashing lights to warn drivers of pedestrians; one on Roop Street next to the library; one on Stewart Street next to the Capitol; and one on Fairview next to Pheasant Drive. These lighted crosswalks are in place in these locations because there are school crossings, multiple lanes of traffic, high foot traffic areas and high rate of speed.

Nevada Department of Transportation said it has a number of pedestrian problem areas it wants to address, however, money is an issue to getting more lighted crosswalks in these areas, including the crosswalk next to SlotWorld.

“The cost of one (lighted crosswalk) is a ballpark estimate between $20,000 and $25,000 per location,” said Patrick Pittenger, Carson City transportation manager. “We are certainly sensitive to safety… but our needs definitely exceed our resources.”

“Safety is paramount to us,” Pittenger added. “Sadly there are numerous locations that need to be updated.”

Though much of the responsibility is on the driver, Furlong said pedestrians also need to be the cautious ones while crossing the street, especially at night.

“I don’t want to take the responsibility away from the drivers, but it is critical for pedestrians to be aware as well because the driver doesn’t always see the pedestrians,” Furlong said. “The driver needs to stay alert to unexpected things in the roadway and the pedestrians need to be aware that drivers don’t always see them.”

The Sheriff’s Office is also struggling to combat these roadway issues, but with the disbandment of its traffic enforcement unit in 2010, it’s not able to focus as many resources as necessary on cracking down on driving issues.

Furlong said it’s a top priority this year to focus on getting the funding to reinstate the traffic enforcement program, which would use deputies to just strictly work traffic cases, in order to try and reduce speed and other factors that contribute to pedestrian versus vehicle accidents.

“It is truly a challenge,” Furlong said. “But the public will see an emphasis rising for traffic unit enforcement because it is at the top of our future priorities.”