NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Every year parents have to bury their children, wives become widows and families are devastated because of vehicle accidents on Nevada’s roadways.
Summer brings a number of factors that escalate the risk of being in an accident. Of the accidents in Nevada no other county compares to the amount in Clark County annually. This makes it important to know what to watch for and avoid while driving this summer.
One of these factors is the large presence of pedestrians legally and illegally crossing the streets, to include an increased number of children outside playing during summer vacation.
“Clark County has one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the country, and rates over the last two years are still climbing,” said Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Mayhew, 99th Air Base Wing ground safety manager. “In 2012, 60 pedestrians were struck and killed in in Clark County including both jaywalking incidents and pedestrians being struck in crosswalks.”
What separates Las Vegas from other cities when it comes to pedestrian related accidents is the party atmosphere many visitors fall victim to.
“In some instances pedestrians are either too drunk to navigate across roads safely, or too distracted by personal electronic devices to pay proper attention to their surroundings,” Mayhew said.
The warm weather also brings out the motorcyclists, which means looking twice before merging lanes.
“There are about 37,000 registered motorcycles in Clark County. In many accidents involving automobile and motorcycle collisions, the automobile driver never even saw the motorcyclist,” Mayhew said. “It’s critical for drivers not [to] drive distracted, always maintain their situational awareness, and watch for motorcyclists, especially while turning and changing lanes.”
Weather can also be a serious hazard, monsoons cause serious risks on roadways, and may be unexpected by travelers not familiar with the desert.
“Monsoon season will run from July through August and thunderstorms unload excessive rains in short periods of time create very dangerous driving conditions,” Mayhew said. “While Las Vegas averages less than 4.5 inches of rain per year, single torrential downpours during monsoon season have been known to unleash up to three inches of rain in only 90 minutes, causing flash flooding that can engulf cars, leaving drivers stranded.”
Although rain slicked roads can be a serious concern most accidents during this time can be prevented.
“Avoid commuting during rainfalls and never attempt to cross standing waters. Even light rain [can] cause streets [to become slick]; drivers are encouraged to slow down and increase following-space during and following any precipitation,” Mayhew said.
Sometimes the risks are not the road conditions, but the driver themselves.
According to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the highest casualty factor for traffic accidents in 2012 was “improper driving” followed by “excessive speed.”
According to Mayhew the best way to avoid becoming the cause of an accident is to make sure you are fit to drive.
“Don’t drive under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or sleep deprivation. Don’t drive distracted, this is just as dangerous as driving drunk,” he said. “Wait until you arrive at your destination, or safely pull out of the traffic environment, before handling personal electronic devices.
“Don’t try to make up time during your commute by driving aggressively. Plan ahead, wake up earlier if needed, and be patient during your commute.”
Unfortunately, not all accidents are preventable, so properly buckling up can likely be the deciding factor in the overall outcome of an automobile accident.
According to the Nevada Department of Transportation, between 2008 and 2012, 394 unbelted vehicle occupants lost their lives and 1,174 were seriously injured in traffic crashes on Nevada Roadways. Between 2007 and 2011, nearly 64 percent of the unbelted fatalities and serious injuries occur in Clark County.
“Ensure child safety seats are installed properly and children are properly restrained. It’s estimated that as many as 70 [percent] of kids in child safety seats are not properly restrained,” Mayhew said. “Seatcheck.org and safecar.gov are both valuable resources that provide child safety seat tips and also show local organizations that can provide seat inspections by certified technicians.”
Accident can’t always be avoided, but taking some extra precautions before leaving the driveway can make the difference between a near miss, injury or even death.
For more information regarding safe driving call 99th ABW Ground Safety Office at (702) 652-3602.