We must get serious about pedestrian safety

Donations to the Metzker Family Fund can be made at any Wells Fargo, account number 5867974627.

Washoe County has seen 11 pedestrian deaths this year. In Las Vegas, the number is almost 30. To put these figures in perspective, this means that more than 20 percent of all the traffic deaths in Las Vegas are pedestrian fatalities. That makes it one of the most dangerous cities for pedestrians in the country and Nevada one of the most dangerous states.

According to a study recently released by Transportation for America, the national average for pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people is 1.26. Here in Nevada, it’s 2.08.

Go ahead, read that number again. If it didn’t hit home, that’s OK. Americans are desensitized to numbers, so let’s personalize it a bit.

Faith Love, a 12-year-old Las Vegas girl, was struck and killed while out trick-or-treating on Halloween this year. An avid reader, Faith was fascinated with Native American studies. She loved them so much that she dressed as a Native American princess that fateful night. A drunk driver struck and killed the seventh-grader while her aunt, her cousins and her friends watched in horror.

High school freshman Luca Ruiz-Brenes was hit and killed while crossing the street to his friend’s home in Henderson. The driver in that crash, 77-year-old Imre Dayka, was arrested and charged with felony DUI.

Channel 2 KTVN sports director JK Metzker had just left the Little Waldorf Saloon after a post-football game celebration when he was fatally struck and killed by a northbound motorist.

Much has been said about the fact that Metzker was indeed jaywalking, but the law allows pedestrians who are far away from a crosswalk to cross a street with due caution. The nearest crosswalk was more than 550 feet north of the accident scene, and other vehicles had stopped to allow Metzker and his friends to safely cross. Thankfully, in the wake of this tragedy, we will now have a properly marked crosswalk in this area.

Have these tragedies come from driver errors? Partially. Motorists must be more alert, more patient, and more engaged in driving. Today’s cars are technological marvels, and every piece of that technology can serve as a distraction. Navigation screens, massaging seats, tons of satellite radio stations, and a button, switch or toggle to adjust everything from the temperature of your steering wheel to the color of the ambient lighting in the cabin. Our cars are amazing, but we must remember that although it may feel as though we are driving our living rooms, operating a motor vehicle is serious business, and one wrong move can result in injury, destruction or death.

Pedestrians must also check back into reality and take more responsibility for their own safety. Whether it’s an arrogant belief that our laws will always work, and cars will always stop no matter what, or the allure of the smart phone buzzing and jingling in one’s pocket, crosswalks are nothing more than lines painted on the pavement. They will protect your rights to some degree, but that won’t help much if that vindication comes in the form of an insurance settlement paid to the family you left behind.

The huge uptick in pedestrian fatalities here in Nevada is extremely troubling, and as we venture further into the holiday season, there will be even more impaired drivers on the road. Now more than ever, we must be that much more aware because these accidents are preventable.

If you’re a driver, is it really worth the moments gained to blatantly disregard our laws and potentially maim or kill someone just because you’re impatient or don’t want to “waste the money” on a taxi? No, it isn’t.

For pedestrians, look at it this way: A vehicle moving at 45 mph travels approximately 66 feet per second. A human’s average response time is two seconds. You do the math.