Nevada police wrote more than 5,100 speeding tickets for drivers traveling 100 mph or more last year, marking at least the second year in the row citations have jumped.
But one law enforcement official says the numbers would be much higher if staffing within the Nevada Highway Patrol wasn’t at “critically low levels.”
“I would say there are definitely hundreds, if not thousands, of more citations of this type (that) would be given out if we are fully staffed,” said trooper Matthew Kaplan, president of the Nevada Police Union. “The ability to be out there enforcing is severely handicapped right now.”
According to new data from the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety, nearly two-thirds of the tickets in 2021 were written in Clark County, the most-populated county in the state. The second-most, about 450, were written in Elko County. The rural northern county, which borders Idaho and Utah, is the state’s sixth most-populated.
In 2019, 3,517 tickets were written statewide. In 2020, the annual number grew to 4,415 and then to 5,137 in 2021, an average of about 14 drivers cited every day. Citation data for years prior was not immediately available.
Erin Breen, director of UNLV’s Road Equity Alliance Project, called last year’s statistics “mind-boggling.”
“Even the 2019 numbers are shocking,” she said. “It comes down to selfish drivers.”
No road in Nevada allows drivers to travel 100 mph. The highest posted speed in the state is 80 mph along segments of Interstate 80, which runs east to west across the northern half of the state.
In Clark County, speed limits reach a maximum of 75 mph in rural areas and 65 mph within the Las Vegas Valley, according the Nevada Department of Transportation.
Yet, nearly two-thirds of the speeding tickets in 2021, 3,360, were written in the county.
Police believe that a North Las Vegas man was driving a Dodge Challenger over 100 mph when he ran a red light and caused a six-vehicle crash that killed nine people, including himself, on Saturday. Gary Dean Robinson, 59, was traveling on Commerce Street, where the posted speed limit is 35 mph.
Both local authorities and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.
“This tragedy is an extreme example to be sure, but speeding at any magnitude unquestionably increases the risks to safety,” NTSB member Tom Chapman said at North Las Vegas City Hall on Monday.
A car traveling 100 mph covers about 147 feet each second, enough speed to travel the length of an NFL football field in under three seconds. Wrecks can have catastrophic results.
“Those are the ones that are the worst that we see as troopers,” Kaplan said.
As of January, state officials reported that 85 of 471 sworn law-enforcement positions in the Highway Patrol were vacant.
But Kaplan said the vacancy rate is closer to 50 percent in the field. After a trooper is hired, it can take a year before they have sufficient training to patrol on their own.
Now, it is common for six troopers per shift to be responsible for covering the 175 miles of Las Vegas Valley roads that fall under the highway patrol’s jurisdiction, Kaplan said.
“There was a time that the public would never drive past the state trooper on the highway, and now there’s just no fear of consequences,” he said. “We have drivers passing us all the time, and committing violations ina front of us in a way that they weren’t afraid to before.”
A previous version of the story had an incorrect number for Highway Patrol vacancies.
Contact Michael Scott Davidson at email@example.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.