Las Vegas Sun

October 20, 2014

Currently: 69° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Traffic accidents:

Accident pushes concerns about bus stop safety back into spotlight

The bus stop by the Crown & Anchor pub on Spring Mountain Road sits on the sidewalk, leaving a few feet of concrete between the bench and the road.

Blood, glass and metal speckled the concrete Thursday morning, the scattered remains of the impact between a car estimated to have been speeding at 100 mph and several people waiting for the bus. Snow-white sheets now covered four people, all believed to have been waiting at the stop, who died. Others injured in the accident lie in local hospitals.

As rescue workers fished the driver, Gary Lee Hosey Jr., 24, out of his wrecked vehicle, he was overheard saying: “Did I make it to the liquor store?”

Police believe the driver had been drinking. Speeding east on Spring Mountain, he hit a dip in the road, went airborne, lost control and slammed into the bus stop and the people.

Hosey faces four felony counts of driving under the influence causing death.

It’s not the first time innocents awaiting a bus have been killed by drivers in the Las Vegas Valley.

The most recent fatal bus stop incident was in July 2008, when Patricia Hoff died and Patricia Hughes was so maimed, she had to have both legs amputated at the knee. That, too, was a morning accident. Lawsuits related to the accident are still winding their way through court. In May 2009, Steven Murray was sentenced to 18 years to life for the accident; he had told police he ingested Percocet and Valium the night before the accident.

That accident led to an intensive study by the Regional Transportation Commission into potential bus stop safety measures, including erecting concrete bollards of protection around bus stops.

Erin Breen, chairman of the RTC’s Bus Shelter and Bench Advisory Committee, said she initially favored bollards, similar to the rounded concrete masses erected in front of federal buildings. She changed her mind after reading how pieces of concrete break off and become projectiles when hit by a speeding vehicle.

“If a car going 100 mph had hit one of them, it would have been like firing a gun at those people,” she said.

There’s also the Americans With Disabilities Act to consider. Bollards, which cost around $1,500 each, might create so much of a sidewalk bottleneck that wheelchairs couldn’t get past them. In that case, land behind the bus stop would need to be purchased to make room for more sidewalk.

Ultimately, the bollards idea came and went. Instead, the RTC has embarked on a program to move bus stops behind sidewalks, at least five 5 from the road. It was helped by a 2007 state law allowing the RTC to obtain easements near bus stops from utility companies; the bench and shelter of the bus stop then are moved off the sidewalk and onto the easement.

Of 3,400 bus stops throughout the valley, 515 have been moved since 2008. The $15 million cost has been covered through federal grants, said Carl Scarbrough, the RTC’s transit amenities manager.

The problem remains with land owned by other private businesses. Some of those businesses do not want a bus stop on their property or would only give up land at a steep price. With public dollars scarce, the added cost makes the idea less appealing. So far, Scarbrough said, the RTC hasn’t attempted to obtain easements from those private businesses.

Bus turnouts are likely the best safety measure, said Denis Cederburg, Clark County director of public works. Turnouts not only move the bus out of traffic’s way, but they push pedestrians awaiting the bus several more feet away from the road. The problem is cost.

Construction of one turnout is $40,000, Cedarburg said. That doesn’t include the cost of purchasing additional land to make room for the turnout. In five years, the county has built about 25 turnouts on major thoroughfares.

State Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, agrees turnouts are the ultimate safety measure, but he doesn’t want to wait another half-century or whatever it might take to have them built throughout the valley.

Hoping to become chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee during next year’s legislative session, Manendo said he would make bus stop safety a priority in committee discussions. At first blush, he said, he believes bollards might need to be addressed.

“Turnouts are great, and that’s the best way, but we can’t wait 50 years,” he said. “In the meantime, we just have to do something, especially on these major roads. This has been a horrific year, period, for pedestrian safety.”

Thursday’s accident has seemed to push the agenda of change in other people’s minds, as well. Susan Brager, Clark County Commission chairwoman, said she hoped to address bus stop safety at an upcoming commission meeting.

Brager is the survivor of a pedestrian-vehicle accident 45 years ago that nearly took her life. She relived all those memories — being crushed between two cars, one of them helmed by a drunk driver; hearing that she was dying; and spending two months in a body cast, then months more at home in bed — after hearing about the Spring Mountain Road accident.

“I was blessed, truly, but hearing these things brings it back, instantaneously,” she said.

She called pedestrian safety a “high priority” for Clark County, and she wants commissioners to talk about obtaining federal grants or figuring out some way to fund bus stop safety features.

“We cannot lose one more person to an incident at a bus stop,” Brager said. “Something, whether it is putting up warning signs at bus stops for people to be aware of traffic, has to be done because this was senseless,” she said. “There’s never a good death, but this was totally horrific.”

Breen, who is also director of UNLV’s Safety Community Partnership and one of the valley’s leading advocates for traffic safety issues, said there was one task that can be done immediately. The problem is it can't be purchased.

“The common denominator in these accidents is speed and impaired drivers,” she said. “If we’re going to do something and if the commission wants to do something, reduce existing speeds.”

Admitting that posting lower speed limits likely wouldn’t have stopped Thursday’s crash, Breen said it might make a difference in more average accidents.

“Because speed is related every single time,” she said. “The RTC has looked and looked and looked. There’s no engineering for idiots. … The only thing we can point our finger at is reducing speed.”

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 5 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. There are many bus stops that actually impede traffic, and create a road hazard on a daily basis. The bus stop on Flamingo westbound, just past Rainbow is a perfect example. The right traffic lane is effectively shut down as long as the bus is discharging or picking up passengers. A cutout could not be placed there, as there is a private property wall in place, and a public sidewalk. That's it. The placement of bus stops needs to be addressed as well as cutouts. On Flamingo eastbound, just east of Decatur, there is another badly placed bus stop that is an accident waiting to happen, just like the bus stop on Spring Mountain. It is placed the depth of the sidewalk from moving traffic, and the buses must use the bicycle lane to try and get as close as they can to the curb. There is room to pass; barely. Again, a cutout would encroach on private property (parking lot). Cutouts are the best approach, long term, but relocating some bus stops should be studied as well

  2. strange how every other dui accident news article identifies the driver by name...but not this one???

  3. Bollards, only cost 2 to 500 dollars a piece, they're easy to install and also come in steel form with concrete poured inside of them. I think the city needs to do their research a little better. The bollards, lolly columns etc could also be placed far enough away to still protect the bus stop and allow for wheel chair accessibility.

    Really LV? Really.....

  4. Ashley, I think it's you that needs to do your research.

    1. Security bollards do not have the stopping power that most people think they do. Google the companies that sell and install them. The highest rated ones available (which also cost a fortune to install because they go 2 feet underground for every foot above ground) have a stopping power that maxes out at 45-55 mph....and that's only if they are close enough together to guarantee that TWO bollards always share the impact. The inexpensive, easy to install models which mount to a base plate that gets bolted to the ground have a PSR (Pedestrian Safety Rating) of "None - visual deterrent only"

    2. Security bollards have a purchase and installation cost far higher than what you claim. The 55 mph rated bollards described above (IBF12080) run about $3000 each including installation costs. The 200-500 dollar models you seem to be thinking of like the IBB03040 are specifically listed as "should not be used for stopping vehicles" and are therefore useless for this purpose.

    3. "placed far enough away to still protect the bus stop and allow for wheel chair accessibility." Really? Using what land? Do you take a lane out of the road or do you purchase the private property on the other side of the sidewalk?

    4. The bollards would have to be between the road and the bus stop. That means that to get on the bus you have to go between the bollards. To be effective, security bollards must be placed LESS than 3 feet apart (again, Google the engineering companies that do them professionally) but ADA requirements specify that you have to have at least 36 inches (3 feet) apart on spacing. (and it would actually need to be farther apart than that since it would need to accommodate the width of the wheelchair lifts on each bus, not just the width of the wheelchair....unless you're now going to take even more land to have room for the road, then a space for loading with room for the wheelchair lift, THEN the security bollards, THEN the bus stop waiting area itself. (Wow, we just went an awful long way into the private property behind the stop, huh?). Placing them farther apart no longer guarantees that at least 2 bollards take every impact. With a spacing that allows for single bollard impacts the Pedestrian Safety Rating drops down to 25 mph.

    Bottom line is that security barriers like these provide more psychological reassurance than actual physical safety. In a case like the most recent one, with a car going an estimated 100mph, they would have been completely ineffective.

    Sorry folks, you might not like it but the engineering is what it is. There is no reasonable barrier you can put up that will protect pedestrians from a high speed impact.

  5. Not mentioned in this article is that the aluminum structures are privately owned by Outdoor Promotions, LLC. This company has no interest in the safety of those who sit within their BILLBOARDS, the true purpose of their business, and the reason so many people have been killed. The structures are placed by this company in the most conspicuous locations with no regard for safety, and little input from the RTC. The company also donates billboard space on their shelters to politicians during elections, hence the mundane interest in telling the company to move them back from the curb, or remove them entirely when re-placement is not possible.

    Steve Miller, former Clark County Regional Transportation Commissioner