Las Vegas Sun

November 20, 2014

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Transportation officials strive to eliminate highway fatalities

Nevada Department of Transportation Director Susan Martinovich.

Nevada Department of Transportation Director Susan Martinovich.

What is an acceptable number of fatalities from traffic accidents in Nevada?

When the Nevada Department of Transportation began working on its Strategic Highway Safety Plan, that’s the question officials asked.

Then they wondered, how many deaths are acceptable in their own families? And the answer was obvious: Zero.

“That’s everybody’s goal,” said Chuck Reider, the department’s chief safety engineer.

The department held a kickoff Thursday for its Zero Fatalities campaign as part of the safety plan, which was completed last year and approved by the state Transportation Board last month.

The event was held in conjunction with the spring meeting of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. NDOT Director Susan Martinovich is the group’s president.

When the first Strategic Highway Safety Plan was finished in 2006 there were 431 deaths on Nevada roads. In 2010, there were 254.

“Deaths on Nevada highways have declined in the last five years,” Martinovich said. “That’s great; that’s wonderful. But they’ve declined, not been eliminated. We don’t want anyone killed on our streets and highways.”

The plan to continually move toward the goal of zero fatalities, Martinovich said. “Is it doable? I definitely think so.”

The plan was developed by the transportation department with the help of the Department of Public Safety and input from more than 75 Nevada traffic and safety experts. A series of meetings was held across the state last spring, and a safety summit was conducted in Reno in October to finalize the plan.

It has five critical areas of emphasis: impaired driving, seat belts, intersections, lane departures and pedestrians.

“It’s in our mind, our heart, our soul, if you will, that we are going to change the behavior of drivers in the state of Nevada,” said Nevada Highway Patrol Maj. Brian Sanchez, who helped with the plan. “We want to influence them; we want to educate them; we want to train them.”

Reider said improving highway safety will require a cultural change, where drinking and driving, texting and driving and not wearing seat belts becomes more socially unacceptable.

“We must change the mindset,” Reider said.

Jenifer Watkins was injured seven years ago when an unlicensed driver talking on a cell phone hit her and her husband on the side of U.S. 95.

In the past year, she and her mother-in-law, Sandy, have become advocates for improving traffic safety. They said they are hopeful the plan will work.

“We don’t want more people to be hurt,” Jennifer Watkins said.

Sandy Watkins said it’s “a good idea to aim for zero fatalities. It’s just sad it takes tragedies like ours for people to realize the problems. We don’t want to see any more lives lost or changed.”

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  1. Metro and NHP should start with their own organizations first, rather talking down to the public.

    Have you ever driven 113 mph? Mr and Mrs Public?

    Have you ever smashed into a car at that speed killing four people?

    Have you crashed your patrol car in Henderson while drunk and KEPT your job?

    Have you smoked pot and killed someone with your car??? while being an accident investigator??

    You get my drift...these showmen should get off their high horse before preaching to the average motorist. We all see them around town, and driving like nuts everywhere they go.

  2. 2 months ago a 12" wide rumble was ground into the middle of NV SR265 from U.S.95 to Silver Peak. SR265 is a rough surfaced 55 mph road that is narrow and bumpy that has probably never experienced a head on collision. Several accidents have happened when people drove off the side of the road where there are NO rumble strips?

    The question needs to be asked. . .is this a good way to spend taxpayers stimulus dollars ignoring the narrow roads deteriorating sides?

    The money obviously should and could have been better spent to IMPROVE the existing road before making the road even more narrow and dangerous with a center rumble strip.

  3. Have they ever looked at the lane change markings.
    I know the lane paint will not stick - so how about Larger or More Markers. And only one lane please - not like on I-215 on the west side,
    the lane change markers litterally pick up in the middle of your existing lane, so you have no idea where you should be.
    Drunk Drivers? Put the sobriety checkpoints at the Casino Exits. I have seen people absolutely wasted
    and the Valet issues them their car.

  4. "Have you ever driven 113 mph? Mr and Mrs Public?"

    Please. Anyone who has been in Nevada longer than ten years has. The posted speed in rural Nevada was once "Speed Unlimited" - as it should be today.

    If anyone wants to truly improve highway safety, then they would insist upon real training requirements, annual in-car testing, and annual automobile inspections. Otherwise ... it's all empty rhetoric and/or revenue enhancement.

  5. "It's in our mind, our heart, our soul, if you will, that we are going to change the behavior of drivers in the state of Nevada," said Nevada Highway Patrol Maj. Brian Sanchez, who helped with the plan. "We want to influence them; we want to educate them; we want to train them."

    Major Sanchez should have been honest -- "We want to give them more tickets and get more money."

    "Have you ever driven 113 mph? Mr and Mrs Public?"

    mred -- driving at high speed doesn't cause accidents, stopping unsafely does. Good points made here.

    "Fear is the foundation of most governments." - John Adams, 1776 "Thoughts on Government"

  6. Good points:

    Law enforcement sending a bad example in their driving.

    Roads not repaired.

    Signage for construction zones not adequate.

    Building improvements and developments before roads are upgraded. i.e. Southwest Highlands/Blue Diamond Road, DAM bypass bridge.

    More Driver training.

    Focus on gaming revenue from tickets, rather than improving driving. (Does this mean the DA is going to stop plea bargaining tickets?)

    There you go, public feedback from the public (the posting peanut gallery here at the SUN). How much did they pay the "PR Agency" over this effort.