Traffic deaths on Nevada roads increased by one in 2016 | SierraSun.com

Traffic deaths on Nevada roads increased by one in 2016

Geoff Dornan
gdornan@nevadaappeal.com

CARSON CITY, Nev. — The number of people who died on Nevada roads in 2016 increased by just one — 327 versus 326 — from the previous year, according to a recent report from the Nevada Department of Transportation.

While that is significantly lower than the peak of 432 deaths in 2006, NDOT Director Rudy Malfabon said the only acceptable goal is zero fatalities.

Meanwhile, the number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities was down from 87 to 77.

NDOT Office of Traffic Safety officials say a majority of fatal crashes are caused by intoxicated, speeding, distracted or reckless drivers, which are preventable and, therefore, shouldn't be described as accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says 94 percent of traffic deaths are caused by driver behavior.

In addition to unsafe driving behavior, NDOT officials say the number of miles traveled on Nevada roads increases nearly 4 percent every year.

But when viewed as a number of deaths per 100 million miles traveled, drivers in Nevada are improving. That number has fallen from a bit more than 2 deaths per 100 million miles in 2005 to just 1.3 in 2015.

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The vast majority of traffic fatalities occur in Nevada's two metropolitan areas. The Las Vegas area reported 216 fatalities in 2016, up from 210 the previous year. Washoe County reported 49 compared to 37 in 2015.

The number of Carson City traffic fatalities more than tripled in 2016 from two to seven. Churchill County also had a worse year, reporting a total of eight deaths compared to five in 2015.

Douglas County, by comparison, had a better year in 2016, decreasing the total number of traffic fatalities from seven to four.

Chief Traffic Safety Engineer Ken Mammen said his office has set a goal of cutting Nevada traffic fatalities in half by 2030. He said they do that through enforcement, engineering, emergency medical response and public education.

"We focus on the driving behaviors and issues that lead to the most deaths and injuries on Nevada roads," he said.

There's a heavy emphasis on enforcement. In the last fiscal year, more than 76,000 citations were issued to drivers in Nevada.