Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2004 | 9:05 a.m.
At least 155 people have been killed in just the past 18 months as they have driven along Interstate 15 between Las Vegas and Baker, Calif. Many who died were innocent people just tooling along, obeying the speed limit and other traffic safety laws, when a speeding, weaving driver, often using the shoulder as a passing lane, lost control and hit them full force. Something about that long, straight passageway between Southern California and Southern Nevada motivates people to drive like demons, even through the multiple construction zones.
In a more perfect world, drivers on I-15 in that area would see a trooper every few miles. Enforcement at that level would ensure that many more people reach their destinations, instead of the hospital or morgue. Unfortunately, neither California nor Nevada properly fund their highway patrols. Troopers in both states are understaffed in proportion to traffic flows.
An agreement between the two states' highway patrols, however, will offer at least some additional protection. They will cooperate on interstate public service announcements before holiday weekends, which will caution people about the dangers of reckless driving and about how deceptive I-15 can be. Long and straight, the highway looks safe for high speed. But there are thousands of large trucks on that road, which narrows considerably in construction zones that go on for miles. There are apt to be strong winds and there is even more chance of the road being filled with tired, impaired or impatient drivers.
Additionally on holiday weekends, the two agencies will put more troopers in the area. The mere presence of a trooper has the effect of slowing traffic to somewhere near the posted speed limit. Extra patrols on holiday weekends are a good start. But given the number of fatalities, and with this stretch of road being so vital to the economies of both Southern California and Southern Nevada, we believe this level of law enforcement should be in place year-round.