Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 | 5 p.m.
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Experts say much of traffic safety comes down to education, and recent accident numbers suggest Southern Nevada has a lot of people to educate.
Despite Nevada's Zero Fatality campaign, many drivers and pedestrians are failing to follow basic safety techniques from buckling up to crossing the street appropriately.
In 2013, Metro Police responded to 114 fatalities in its jurisdiction — five more than 2012. Three people have already died in 2014.
In response, a group of community members, officers from across the Las Vegas Valley and state Sen. Mark Manendo gathered today for the Southern Nevada Traffic Safety Committee. The group, which has been meeting since 2012, discussed ways to educate the community on traffic safety and help Metro cut down the number of fatalities.
"I hope it can get a message out there into the community that not only the police are trying but invested community members are also trying to assist with traffic safety," Metro Police Lt. David Jacoby said.
Jacoby said the three biggest areas of focus are pedestrian safety, motorcycle safety and reminding people to wear their seatbelt. Pedestrian and motorcycle deaths accounted for more than half the traffic fatalities in 2013.
The committee discussed passing out educational flyers to motorists each month, hosting a traffic fair, holding traffic vigils for extreme accidents and releasing a seatbelt jingle. The goal is to remind motorists and pedestrians about basic traffic rules.
Manendo said he has been going to meetings since the committee was founded. He knows Las Vegas needs to improve its traffic safety. He has come across crashes where he's helped victims and recently saw a person writhing in pain after being hit by a car.
He hopes the committee will help remind people that they aren't above the rules.
"A lot of it is just getting the word out," Manendo said. "There are so many people out there that think they can beat the odds.… Sometimes people just need a refresher course because they get complacent, as we all do in life."
In addition to the committee's plans, Jacoby said Metro will continue to run drunken driver checkpoints, day-to-day traffic stops and patrol enforcements across the entire valley to reduce fatalities.
Still, Metro Fatal Accident Det. Ken Salisbury believes the department is losing too many traffic officers to keep up with demands. It used to be that there would be so many officers patrolling the streets that a man once received three tickets for jaywalking on a 1/2 mile walk home.
Salisbury said the increase in fatalities corresponds with a decrease in officers in the street and a rise in population returning after the recession.
"When people don't have a consequence for their actions they're more apt to do it," Salisbury said. "More people are driving drunk and not getting arrested for it; we're not influencing that change."
Jacoby hopes the committee can assist Metro in bringing the number of traffic fatalities down again.