NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. â€” According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an average of nearly 5,000 non-motorists are killed on U.S. roadways each year.
To put that number in perspective, Transportation for America, a broad-based coalition focused on transportation safety, made this grim analogy: The number of U.S. pedestrian roadway deaths is equivalent to a jumbo jet full of passengers crashing every month, or seven people killed in vehicle-pedestrian accidents every minute.
Clark County has a rate of vehicle-pedestrian accidents higher than the national average for its population. In 2010 and 2011, 34 and 30 pedestrian fatalities, respectively, occurred in the county.
This number could be on the rise: As of March, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department had already recorded 24 pedestrian fatalities for 2012 within its jurisdiction alone.
The leading cause of pedestrians being hit by vehicles is a combination of inattention, alcohol use (by either the driver or the pedestrian) and/or jaywalking. However, other major causes include drivers running red lights or pedestrians failing to account for traffic turning at intersections.
Las Vegasâ€™ wide lanes and straight roads also play a part. The brutal summer heat makes things worse, destroying the adherence of road and crosswalk markings by cooking the oil in the asphalt.
The number of vehicle-pedestrian accidents has prompted the LVMPD to conduct focused enforcement events – targeting motorists failing to yield to pedestrians in marked crossings and jaywalkers alike. In one such sting, the department issued 177 â€œfailure to yieldâ€ tickets in just 10 hours. Jaywalking is rigorously policed, especially on the Strip.
The cities of Henderson and North Las Vegas have also focused enforcement efforts on the issue.
Although jaywalking is an infraction similar to a parking ticket, Nevada has stiff fines for the offense. A typical jaywalking fine in Clark County is $198 plus court fees.
For drivers, failing to yield to a pedestrian in a marked crossing is a 4-point traffic violation accompanied by a $195 fine and court fees.
However, if the jaywalking or failure to yield causes an accident or fatality, the charge could escalate to reckless endangerment or involuntarily manslaughter, which could be prosecuted as felonies. Even if a prosecutor agrees to reduce this to a misdemeanor charge (most commonly, breaching the peace), fines of up to $1,000 and/or up to six months of jail time could still be imposed.
Ultimately, staying alert to traffic and obeying the rules of the road are just good sense, either while driving or on foot. This is especially true when the consequences could be heavy fines, jail time or even lost lives.