By Kelsey Givens
Fatalities on Nye and Esmeralda county roadways reportedly decreased by nearly 50 percent in 2012 from the previous year, according to preliminary data from the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety.
Data kept by the division showed the two counties saw a decrease in both the number of fatal crashes as well as the number of people killed in incidents last year.
According to the information, Nye County recorded eight fatal crashes last year, compared to 15 the previous year.
Esmeralda County also saw a drop in the number of fatal incidents on its roadways, dropping from three incidents in 2011 to just two last year.
Though both counties saw a significant reduction in the number of fatalities and fatal crashes on roadways, John Johansen with the Office of Traffic Safety said there doesn’t appear to be any one factor by itself that contributed to the decrease.
“Whether or not it’s any specific law, such as the hands-free cell phone law, seat belts, red light laws and all these other changes in the laws, it’s very difficult to say this specific law saved ‘X’ number of crashes or fatalities. It’s kind of like you’re making a cake and there’s a recipe and it all goes together,” he said.
He noted it is also not uncommon for the number of fatalities to fluctuate from year to year.
“To give you an idea, this is just Nye County totals from 2006 to 2012; from our raw data, the number of fatalities went from 24 to 12 then 21 down to 14, 15, 16 and eight. So it has a tendency to go all over the map. It is really more a question of what is the long-term trend, because on any given year it can fluctuate a great deal,” he said. “Overall, statewide we had an increase of 12 last year, so what I look at is a running average, and if you want the running averages for Nye County total traffic fatalities starting in 2009, it was 17.75 then it went down to 17.2 then it went to 16.5 and now in 2012 with the last four years including the eight from last year, it dropped to 13.25, which means you are getting better, but I don’t have an official answer as to why you only had eight in Nye County.”
In addition to the decreases in Nye and Esmeralda counties, eight other counties, including Lyon, Lincoln, Elko, Douglas, Churchill, Carson, Eureka and Pershing counties also saw decreases in the number of fatal incidents on their roadways in 2012.
Despite decreases in more than half of Nevada’s counties, the state as a whole had more deaths in 2012 than in 2011, possibly due to an increase of more than 50 additional fatalities in Clark County last year.
Though Nye County had an overall decrease in the number of fatalities last year, the county did reportedly see an uptick in the number of pedestrians and bicyclists killed in traffic accidents last year.
According to the preliminary data, there were two pedestrians and one bicyclist struck and killed on the roads in Nye County in 2012, while it did not appear there were any reported in 2011.
While those numbers increased, it appears the number of motorcyclists killed in crashes declined in the county, going down from three deaths in 2011 to none in 2012.
Despite any increases counties across the state saw in 2012, Johansen said the number of fatalities on Nevada roadways last year were still better than they were several years ago when they were well into the 400s.
“Not too long ago, we were up well over 400 fatalities in a year. Now we’re into the 250s, 240s, that’s a huge step for us,” he said. “The one thing we do know is that over the course of the last eight or nine years, we have put a lot of effort and funding into the local law enforcement agencies because we do know that having traffic officers out on the street and roads, long term, consistently, does lead to reductions.
“Now that doesn’t mean that it’s always going to go down every week or every year, but over a period of time it will in fact decrease.
“You notice we have law enforcement agencies participating maybe going on a speed campaign or impaired driving campaign or a seatbelt campaign, but it’s always pretty much in the media what’s going on, so all of the drivers are continuing to hear safety messages and that law enforcement are enforcing those safety messages, and that over a long period of time, seems to be making the biggest difference.”