With the holiday season now in full swing, officials from the Nevada Department of Public Safety are again reminding the public about the hazards of drinking and driving.
Preliminary numbers from the agency show that 303 traffic fatalities occurred on Nevada roadways in 2017, down from 330 deaths the previous year.
As such, NHP Sgt. Carlos Rivera, a 24-year veteran, said troopers are again patrolling the roadways with extra scrutiny, to prevent DUI-caused collisions this year.
“We see more people driving under the influence during the holiday season compared to other times of the year,” Rivera said this week. “I think it just has to do with the time of year when people are out having a good time while they are getting together with family and friends. Of course, there will be alcohol consumption, which is fine, but we want to make sure that it is practiced safely, especially when they get onto our roadways.”
During his two-plus-decade career, Rivera said he, unfortunately, has seen his share of fatal DUI-related accidents.
“Unfortunately, that’s one of the downfalls of the job that I have seen,” he said. “We just want to stress that people need to practice safe holiday driving not just this time of year, but every day throughout the year. We want the holiday season to be a positive memory rather than having a negative impact on families.”
Rivera also noted that though working the scene of a fatal DUI crash is always unfortunate, he addressed another regrettable aspect of his job, once the scene is clear.
“Obviously responding to a fatal DUI accident is never a good thing but making the notification phone call to a family member is even worse,” he lamented. “That is never a call I want to make. We just want to make sure that we stress to the public that they should take these things into consideration before they go out and drink and drive while celebrating the holidays. They need to take the time and the thought process and think about these things before they actually get out there and try to operate a motor vehicle.”
Additionally, Rivera spoke of other causes of both fatal and non-fatal motor vehicle collisions.
“We have identified a lot of contributing factors to serious motor vehicle collisions, including speed, as well as distracted driving where people are talking on their cell phones or even texting,” he said. “We have had that law on the books for at least a good four or five years regarding the use of cell phones while driving. We also want to encourage people to pay attention to moving violations and running stop signs or traffic signals, which includes passing unsafely, passing in no-passing zones, or following too close. Those are also contributing factors to a potential motor vehicle collision.”
Enforcing laws and educating drivers were also additional topics of discussion for Rivera.
“Of course we always want to educate and enforce the law,” he noted. “Education is also considered enforcement. I always tell people involved in crashes that I would much rather want to issue a citation than to work a crash scene. I’m sure anyone would feel the same who has lost a family member due to a DUI crash.”
Change of heart
Though Rivera did not initially embrace the idea of installing roundabouts along Highway 372, he now believes the traffic circles have actually reduced the number of collisions at the former intersections along Blagg Road and Pahrump Valley Boulevard.
“The roundabouts here in town have indeed made things safer, and the traffic flows more smoothly at those roundabouts,” he concluded. “They have saved a lot of our travel time out there and we have also seen a reduction of crashes where those roundabouts are located. I think it is a good improvement for our highway and has really worked well for us here in Pahrump. I will admit, however, that I initially was not on board with the idea of having the roundabouts here in town. I just wasn’t completely sold on the idea at the time.”
On a final note, Rivera spoke of the importance of wearing seatbelts while traveling the roadways.
“We can’t stress enough for people to wear their seatbelts,” he said. “You also obviously want to make sure your child is buckled up and a very young child is secured in a safety seat. Again, we just want to make sure that people practice patience, not just through the holidays but throughout the whole year. It’s always best to be patient and courteous when you’re operating a vehicle along our roadways.”
Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @pvtimes