Nevada traffic, pedestrian, motorcycle fatalities increase | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada traffic, pedestrian, motorcycle fatalities increase

Geoff Dornan & The Associated Press
Deputies Cole Sonnemann and Mike Gibson, along with Cortney Bloomer of Carson City Health and Human Services cross North Carson Street in a pedestrian crosswalk sting late last month.
JIm Grant / jgrant@nevadaappeal.com | Nevada Appeal

A total of 284 people died in traffic crashes during 2014.

That is 18 more than were killed the previous year.

A spokesman for the Nevada Department of Transportation said fatalities have increased in recent years after a number of years of decreases from the state’s all-time high of 432 in 2006.

But department officials say fatalities in several of Nevada’s rural counties have increased dramatically — more than 200 percent in Churchill, Lander, Storey and Humboldt counties.

The year also posted the state’s highest number of serious traffic injuries, 2,011.

“These are so much more than numbers. Every death and serious injury on Nevada roads is a tragedy,” NDOT Director Rudy Malfabon said in a statement.

Pedestrian and motorcycle related deaths have also risen. Despite recent publicity about pedestrian injuries and deaths, a spokesman said there was one more pedestrian death in 2014 than the year before for a total of 72. Pedestrian fatalities have increased every year since 2009 when there were just 35 pedestrians killed.

According to NDOT statistics, fully 44 percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred mid-block on a road, but fatalities and serious injuries in marked crosswalks were a substantial 24 percent of the total.

There was an increase in the number of motorcycle fatalities this year as well with 59 deaths compared to 57 in 2013.

Impaired drivers account for a substantial percentage of the death toll. There were 82 in 2012 and 79 in fiscal 2013. The total for 2014 was not available.

Malfabon said the ultimate goal is zero fatalities in a year but the practical goal is to cut the yearly toll in half by 2030.

He said this year, numerous safety enhancements have been put into place including more visible stop signs and pedestrian crossing countdown signals.

It’s hard to draw conclusions about why 2014 was a deadlier year than 2013 because so many different factors contribute to each crash, said Meg Ragonese, spokeswoman for NDOT.

But surveys indicate that Zero Fatalities, a state-run campaign that places billboards and other ads to encourage road safety, is changing bad habits, Ragonese said.

Messages from Zero Fatalities reached 98 percent of state residents in the past year, she said. Seventy-seven percent of survey respondents in 2014 said the messages influenced them not to drive distracted, compared with 55 percent in 2013. The number of people who said the campaign affected their decisions about driving impaired rose from 52 percent to 61 percent.

There’s still too little data to know whether laws passed in recent years, including a three-year-old ban on using a hand-held phone while driving, are curbing distracted-driving crashes, said Traci Pearl of the state Office of Traffic Safety. Distracted driving is notoriously difficult to track because drivers don’t always admit they were using a phone or doing something else before a crash.

What’s easier to track is whether a person was sober or wearing a seatbelt.

“If everyone would do those two things, we wouldn’t have two-thirds of these deaths,” Pearl said.