A haunting video of a family dealing with the death of an 8-year-old boy, Levi Echenique, stuns the crowd into silence.
“We are part of a club [that] nobody wants to be a part of,” Levi’s father Jose Echenique says.
In the wake of rising traffic fatalities in the valley, Clark County officials held a Traffic Safety Forum at UNLV on Thursday to discuss new ways of keeping both drivers and pedestrians safer.
The number of Nevada’s traffic fatalities continue to rise, exceeding more than 300 for the past four years; 326 in 2015, 329 in 2016, 309 in 2017 and a new record high of 331 in 2018. So far this year, there have been 83 traffic fatalities in Clark County with 109 deaths in Nevada, according to Zero Fatalities Nevada.
“That is not a record that we should be proud of,” Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft said. “As someone who grew up on these roads, I am aware of these problems and what we can do to fix them.”
In attendance were law enforcement officers, city officials and other concerned citizens giving their input and sharing stories on how to make the roads safer to travel and the many issues that cause accidents to occur.
Naft, who worked under Rep. Dina Titus as part of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, says the forum needed to take place during the “100 Deadliest Days,” as traffic fatalities tend to increase during the summer.
“This is an opportunity to get everybody under one roof, together,” said Naft.
Naft believes that part of the problem is the way roads are structured. Western state roads are longer, faster and wider, often leading people to drive 10 mph faster than the official speed limit in some areas.
Two separate panels took place during which members of the audience asked questions and gave feedback to city officials and moderators. The Regional Transportation Commission’s Director of Metro Planning Craig Raborn said that the population growth of the valley leads to more vehicles on the road and a higher probability of deaths and accidents.
Although the police are committed to putting more officers on the roads and enforcing the law, newly appointed traffic bureau Capt. Jason Letkiewicz believes that this issue is not something law enforcement can fix by simply arresting more people and writing more tickets.
“We are committed to bring these numbers down but we alone can’t fix this,” Letkiewicz said. “This is a community effort.”
Programs and community initiatives have sought to reduce the number of crashes and deaths throughout the valley including Don’t Kill a Dream, Every 15 Minutes, the DUI Strike Team and Keep Nevada Safe. The first three months of 2019 have shown promise, with 22 fewer fatalities compared to the same time in 2018.
Clark County Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick and Mayors Carolyn Goodman (Las Vegas), Debra March (Henderson), John Lee (North Las Vegas) and Rod Woodbury (Boulder City) pledged to find ways to reduce the amount of accidents and deaths on the road.
“We may do well in one area, but we create another problem,” Goodman said. “We have to stay on it.”