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Pedestrian Safety is a Two Way Street

After a rash of pedestrian fatalities in the Las Vegas area, citizens and public officials are seeking solutions to prevent more of these tragedies from occurring.  The most controversial tragedy involved three young girls that were struck by a vehicle driven by an elderly woman in a North Las Vegas crosswalk.  One of the girls, five-year-old Mia Decker, died as a result.

Erin Breen, Director of UNLVs Safe Community Partnership, organized a town hall meeting at the university to get feedback from the community and discuss solutions that could make a difference and drive some change.  Representatives from Las Vegas Metropolitan police, North Las Vegas Police, Henderson Police, city planners and the RTC were among the panel assembled to discuss concerns with the citizens in attendance.

Because of the recent fatalities, emotions were high as the citizens in attendance questioned:

  • Why aren’t there more marked crosswalks?
  • Why aren’t crosswalks marked better?
  • Why isn’t law enforcement more diligent ?
  • Why aren’t penalties more severe?

Public officials focused solutions on the “Three Es”, Engineering, Education and Enforcement .

To address the issue of the crosswalk issues, officials first clarified there are not only  “marked” crosswalks at major intersections and in some cases mid-block, such as where the three young girls were hit, there are crosswalks anywhere two streets meet.  Every intersection is considered a legal crossing, whether or not it is marked and drivers can be cited if they fail to yield to pedestrians crossing the street.

It was also discussed whether crosswalks should exist at all.  One transportation professor had the opinion that, “Having a crosswalk might not necessarily be the best solution.”   The premise being that pedestrians assume drivers will stop and don’t look before stepping into the marked crossing.  Research shows that drivers can’t see those markings and they give pedestrians a false sense of security.  As one law enforcement officer stated, “Those white lines won’t protect you. ”

These comments showed a definite bias toward drivers, however pedestrian advocates such as Ms. Breen contend that it is the drivers that teach pedestrians bad behavior, such as jaywalking, by refusing to yield to them whether or not they are obeying the law by using a crosswalk, “Pedestrians know this and don’t bother walking an extra quarter mile to find a crossing.”

Law enforcement officers defended their diligence citing a recent North Las Vegas sting operation that led to 175 citations given to motorists that failed to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.  The penalties for these infractions are up to the courts and not the

Based on public comments there is apparently a lot of animosity between drivers and pedestrians.  There were those that made the case that pedestrians jaywalk, don’t pay attention to traffic or challenge drivers to give them the right-of-way.  Others insisted that the problem is distracted drivers.

Although pedestrians are found to be at fault in most cases (including 15 of 19 pedestrian fatalities in Clark County), it  doesn’t mean that drivers can’t prevent these tragic accidents.   Driver distraction can greatly hamper the ability to stop a vehicle in time to avoid hitting a pedestrian.  Even one-second of distraction to answer a cell phone can add 50-feet or more to your braking distance.  So even though a driver may not be cited for hitting a pedestrian, how well will they sleep knowing that if not for that one-second of distraction, the accident victim would still be alive.

 

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