Police investigate a fatal crash involving a motorcycle at Craig Road and Martin Luther King Boulevard in North Las Vegas on the night of Thursday, April 8, 2021. The motorcyclist died at the scene, police said. (Jeff Mosier/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The first seven months on Nevada roads this year have proved to be the deadliest in a decade.
Through July, there have been 208 traffic-related fatalities on state roads, a 31 percent increase over the same period last year, data from the Nevada Department of Public Safety revealed. Clark County accounts for 122 of those deaths, a 37 percent jump compared with the first seven months of 2020.
That sharp increase isn’t just a bump over 2020. It also is the highest total in the first seven months of a year in the last 10 years.
“Looking at the last decade the average is 165 fatalities for the first seven months,” said Andrew Bennett, Department of Public Safety spokesperson. “We’re at 208 lives lost so far this year. We’re seeing the continuing trend of impairment and speed as a contributing factor.”
In addition, the general attitude of motorists in Nevada is to blame, Bennett said.
“You look at the violent incidents on airplanes recently, that behavior is translating to behind the wheel,” Bennett said. “It’s resulting in lives lost. It has to do with the lack of accountability and responsibility when people get behind the wheel.”
This year is the only time traffic deaths have breached the 200 marks through seven months in the past 10 years, with 2018 coming closest with 190 fatalities through July, according to Department of Public Safety data. The lowest total death toll through July in the last decade was recorded in 2011 with 150 deaths. LOCAL NEWS YOUR WAYSign up for our free daily Morning and Afternoon Update newsletters.
The most traffic fatalities in a full year was 432 in 2006. See data here
Officials started looking into historical data because they believe the public was attributing the recent increase in fatalities mainly to less traffic on Nevada roads last year due to restrictions caused by the pandemic, Bennett said.
“Last year people think we had a historic low because of the pandemic and that’s not true,” Bennett said. “We went up in fatalities from 2019 to 2020 and we’re experiencing a rather dramatic increase from 2020 to 2021.”
Also, there have been 43 deaths tied to vehicle occupants not wearing a seat belt, up 13 percent compared with the first seven months of 2020.
“If there is anything that is preventable on this (traffic fatality) list it is using your seat belt,” Bennett said. “It’s the number one thing you can do to save your life in the unfortunate event that you get into a crash.”
Fatal crashes involving motorcyclists have increased 30 percent through July compared with 2020.
“Motorcycle operator error, the rider is either riding impaired, riding too fast, is the number one cause of fatalities for motorcyclists,” Bennett said. “But we are seeing an uptick in vehicles not yielding the right of way to motorcyclists. Whether they’re making that permissive left turn on a flashing yellow or solid green, motorcyclists are hard to see. … It’s hard to gauge their speed compared to a vehicle.”
Individual drivers need to take responsibility, Bennett said.
“I think we have to add self-respect in there,” Bennett said. “When you get behind the wheel you’re driving a deadly weapon and people need to understand that if you get behind the wheel impaired, or choose to drive recklessly when you’re sober, it doesn’t matter. Lives are on the line.”
By the numbers
Traffic fatalities from Jan. 1-July 31
■ 2011: 150
■ 2012: 153
■ 2013: 153
■ 2014: 168
■ 2015: 172
■ 2016: 174
■ 2017: 181
■ 2018: 190
■ 2019: 157
■ 2020: 159