Traffic fatalities down in Nevada |

Traffic fatalities down in Nevada

Staff and wire reports

So far this year, Nevada’s roadways have been a little less lethal than in 1998, the year the state broke all records for traffic deaths.

In Carson City there have been three traffic accident-related deaths, well below the average of six per year for the last 10 years.

Mike Perondi, fatality file analyst for the Office of Traffic Safety, said factors in the number of fatalities include weather, number of people traveling and road condition. “It’s really hard to predict,” he said.

As of Monday, 339 people had died on Nevada’s roadways in vehicles or in accidents with vehicles involving pedestrians or bicyclists. Statewide, in 1998, there were 361 traffic deaths.

But the next 11 days are a concern as New Year’s Eve approaches.

The Department of Motor Vehicles and Public Safety also says alcohol-related traffic deaths in Nevada are down from last year, but pedestrian fatalities are up.

In Carson City, there was one alcohol-related fatality in 1999. There was none in 1998.

”I’m pleased that the alcohol-related numbers are down, but I’m not pleased at all at the increase in pedestrian, bicycle and motorcycle deaths,” said Joanne Keller, highway safety coordinator for the agency.

This year’s numbers represent a 2.8 percent drop in the number of people killed on Nevada’s roads.

The fatalities include 97 alcohol-related deaths so far in 1999, compared with 150 deaths at this same time last year.

Anti-drunken-driving groups were disappointed with last year’s report, so the latest numbers for 1999 are encouraging, said Sandy Heverly, executive director of the Las Vegas group Stop DUI.

”Whatever the reason, we want more of it,” Heverly said. ”The statistics are interesting because last year was a record year for fatalities. It was a horrific slaughter.”

Stop DUI is concerned, however, about the safety of Las Vegas residents and visitors during the big millennium celebration.

”The next two weeks will be the greatest challenge we have ever had to face in terms of keeping DUI deaths and injuries down over a holiday season,” Heverly said. ”There are going to be more celebrations and drinking, and unfortunately, I believe, more drinking and driving.”

Law enforcement agencies are gearing up to deal with the drinking and driving problem, and Stop DUI is also taking every opportunity to ask people to use alternatives to drinking and driving, she said.

Keller said that while an overall decline in road deaths and a drop in alcohol-related deaths this year would be good news, there are some disturbing trends, particularly the number of pedestrian fatalities.

There have been 67 pedestrian fatalities so far this year, compared with 46 at the same time in 1998.