Traffic fatalities rise in 2002 in Nevada and Clark County |

Traffic fatalities rise in 2002 in Nevada and Clark County

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — The number of traffic fatalities rose nearly 17 percent last year in Nevada, and 10 percent in Clark County, state officials said.

Statewide, 368 people died in 2002 compared to 314 the year before, said Chuck Abbott, chief of the state traffic safety office. In Clark County, 208 people died in 2002, up from 189 in 2001.

Authorities are focusing on seat belt use among other ways to try to reduce road deaths.

“We got together with (Las Vegas) police, the NHP, UNLV’s Safe Community Partnership and other groups to outline the areas of need that this money should go toward,” said Abbott, whose office gets about $2 million a year in federal funds.

The group is focusing on seat belt use, driver training, pedestrian education, limiting drunken driving and developing ways to allow quick access to traffic records for law enforcement agencies.

Plans and programs will be submitted to the state traffic office for approval.

Police said they want the state’s seat belt laws strengthened.

Failing to wear a seat belt now is considered a secondary offense, meaning that officers cannot make a traffic stop for the seat belt violation alone, said Las Vegas police traffic Detective Bill Redfairn.

“We want to make that a primary offense, so that an officer on the street can make a stop,” Redfairn said. “It would definitely decrease the number of fatalities, and it doesn’t cost the taxpayers or the legislature anything.”

Redfairn said a bill calling for the change will be introduced during the upcoming legislative session.

The bill is supported by AAA of Nevada and the Safe Community Partnership, a federally funded research group studying traffic fatalities in the county.

“The chances of surviving an accident double if you’re wearing a seat belt, so we’d really like to see that law strengthened,” said Lisa Foster, spokeswoman for AAA of Nevada.