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October 22, 2014

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Public Safety:

As schools prepare to reopen, police urge caution for drivers, pedestrians

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Christopher DeVargas

A Metro Crime Scene Investigator photographs the scene of an auto-pedestrian accident Monday, March 26, 2012. A vehicle traveling westbound on Tropicana, near Topaz, struck a pedestrian as he ran across the road, police say. The pedestrian, who was jaywalking when hit, was hospitalized.

A day after 18-year-old Jesse Hill died from injuries suffered in a car-pedestrian accident in North Las Vegas, law enforcement representatives from throughout the valley urged drivers and pedestrians to act with greater care.

Their 10 a.m. news conference came too late for a woman in a wheelchair who was hit by a truck and transported to the hospital. About an hour after the start of the news conference, another woman was hit by a sedan and taken to the hospital. Both women, police said, suffered what were not thought to be life-threatening injuries. Drivers in both incidents were cited for traffic violations.

“The only thing that is going to save lives is to follow the traffic laws,” said Officer Chrissie Coon of the North Las Vegas Police Department.

Coon said the law enforcement community came together to deliver the message of pedestrian safety in light of Hill’s death, and because more than 315,000 children in Clark County will return to school next week after their holiday break.

In 2011, there were 29 pedestrian fatalities in Clark County, a number that grew to 40 last year. In 2012, 43 children under 15 years old were hit by vehicles.

A prevailing message: Pedestrian fatalities are needlessly high, and everyone around a vehicle needs to be more aware.

“That applies to all of us, not just the drivers, but also the pedestrians,” Trooper Loy Hixson of the Nevada Highway Patrol said.

The informal consensus among law enforcement officials is that cellphones are the greatest hazard to driver and pedestrian safety.

The Associated Press reported nearly 12,000 drivers in Nevada were given tickets for using a cellphone in 2012 — the first full year of enforcement of a state law that bans drivers from using handheld cellphones while operating their vehicles.

Officers from the Nevada Highway Patrol and North Las Vegas, Metro and Clark County School District police departments were in attendance Thursday to herald their increased presence next week around schools.

North Las Vegas will have a greater number of officers, courtesy of a grant from the Nevada Department of Public Safety’s Office of Traffic Safety. The grant allows the department to pay overtime to officers enforcing pedestrian safety rules and teaching pedestrian safety courses at schools.

Metro officers also will assist North Las Vegas in traffic enforcement on Monday during school hours.

“We don’t want to catch people off guard,” Coon said. “We want people to know.”

Coon said it’s important to teach children never to run across the street and to always make eye contact with drivers before they attempt to cross.

CCSD Lt. Darnell Couthen said it’s important for parents to talk to their children and teach them how to behave safely around cars.

“Kids emulate what their parents do,” he said. “What they see is what they do.”

He urged parents to park far from high-traffic areas around schools where there may be many small children around.

High-traffic volume, getting kids to school on time and other factors can add stress to parents who might be driving their kids. That, Coon said, is part of the problem.

“Some of the biggest offenders in school zones are parents,” Coon said.

The other prevailing message? Pedestrian fatalities can be reduced.

“Parents, we depend on you,” Couthen said.

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  1. No truer words said than, ""Kids emulate what their parents do," he said. "What they see is what they do.""

    Over the years, while performing crosswalk duty, I have witnessed parents shouting or prompting their young children to run across the street (illegally) to them. Try and talk to these people, and it falls upon deaf ears, or they come in and complain about being called out on their child endanger behaviors. Good luck trying to convince such folks to do the "right" thing!

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star