Las Vegas Sun

July 28, 2014

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Plethora of fatal accidents prompts Metro traffic symposium

Police look to use ideas generated in daylong event to develop new strategies

A hundred people gathered at Metro Police headquarters Thursday for the department’s first traffic symposium, filling tables where ideas blossomed to reduce traffic accidents.

If victims of fatal accidents this year in Nevada had filled the room instead, a few more tables would have been necessary. So far this year, 132 people have died on state roadways, according to the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety.

That’s why Metro called the daylong brainstorming session, which included law enforcement employees, traffic engineers, business leaders, judges and a variety of other Southern Nevada residents. In Metro’s jurisdiction alone, 66 people have died in traffic accidents this year — an 83 percent increase compared to this time in 2011, said Capt. Mark Tavarez of Metro’s traffic bureau.

Dr. Jay Coates, vice chair of the trauma unit at University Medical Center, said multiple patients wound up in the hospital each day after serious car crashes, resulting in significant socioeconomic effects when injuries prevent those people from returning to work.

“For every fatality we see, there are at least 10 to 12 people either temporarily or permanently disabled” by accidents, he said.

Traffic symposium organizers asked attendees to consider three factors: public awareness and education, traffic enforcement, and engineering and design of roadways.

Overall, attendees found police presence satisfactory in most areas but proposed adding more unmarked patrol cars to forces. Attendees also lamented what they perceived to be court leniency — speeding tickets reduced to parking tickets, for instance.

Several recent technology upgrades, such as LED traffic lights and sophisticated crosswalk safety systems in Clark County, earned praise from the group, which called for more widespread implementation.

Tavarez said the department would document input collected at the symposium and use it to develop new traffic strategies. A Community Coalition on Traffic Safety will be the outgrowth of the symposium with monthly meetings, he said.

“There’s always room for improvement,” he said. “We don’t want (the conversation) to go away after the symposium.”

Sun reporter Jackie Valley participated in the event.

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