LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — You'd think the crash that killed nine people on Jan. 29 would send a message prompting drivers in our community to pause, slow down, pay attention and make better choices on the road.
Unfortunately, it's clear that message hasn't gotten through. The deadly crash at Windmill Lane and Torrey Pines Drive on Thursday is yet another sobering example of driving dangerously.
"What I want to say to people is, 'think about your future.' It's never really worth the risk of speeding or driving recklessly to get there," said Matthew Kaplan, president of the Nevada Police Union.
He says speeding might save you a few seconds on a trip, "but it could cost your own life or the life of someone else. So it's never, ever worth it."
Less than a week after the high-speed crash on Cheyenne Avenue and Commerce Street claimed nine lives, another life was lost. On Thursday, police say a teen fleeing from school district police ran a red light at Windmill and Torrey Pines, plowing into a red Nissan Sentra "at a high rate of speed" and killing the Nissan's driver.
A longtime resident in the neighborhood tells us when there was only a stop sign at the intersection of Windmill and Torrey Pines, cars would often speed and run through it. He was hopeful when the traffic light was put in that it would stop reckless driving, but said he still sees cars speeding every day and often running the red light.
A day before that crash, shortly after 6 a.m. on Boulder Highway, a driver veered off the road, hit a median barrier, then a wall, causing the Ford Focus to flip and killing the driver. A passenger suffered serious injuries.
As we've reported, last year was one of the deadliest on Nevada roads, with more than 380 people killed.
382 lives lost in 2021 on Nevada's roadways. The top causes were impairment and speeding. #LivesAreOnTheLine #Nevada @ZeroFatalsNV @NVStatePolice_N @NVStatePolice_S @NVStatePoliceNE pic.twitter.com/smMj91FQN3— Nevada State Police (@NV_StatePolice) January 7, 2022
That deadly trend is national, with federal data showing increased auto-related fatalities since the pandemic's onset. Fewer people on the roads meant more room to drive faster — and sometimes, way too fast.
There were also more DUIs, and, police say, a near total disregard for safety.
"What is being seen, besides the high speeds is in the cities, the reckless and aggressive driving," says Kaplan, "a person driving a vehicle decides that they need to get through the traffic and start making unsafe lane changes, following too close, speeding, just committing multiple traffic violations within a very short amount of time."
Last Saturday, less than six hours after nine people died in that horrific North Las Vegas crash, Henderson Police say Chase Skenandore was involved in a road rage incident where he recklessly went after a motorcycle in his Ford pick-up truck on Green Valley Parkway and Wigwam Parkway. He collided with a white Jeep.
According to police, Skenandore appeared heavily inebriated, had trouble keeping his eyes open and, when told to walk to a police car, "he had difficulty distinguishing the patrol vehicle with red and blue emergency lights from the white jeep that was involved." Police added that Skenandore spit in an officer's face after he was taken into custody.
Kaplan says the speeders they catch are just a fraction of the violators on our roads. Nevada State Police Highway Patrol says it's understaffed, and that has a spillover effect.
"It's clear that if there aren't troopers on the highway stopping problems and addressing issues there, those issues eventually leave the highway and the interstate and drive onto the surface streets. And then it is something that a local county or a city agency will have to deal with," Kaplan said.
The Nevada State Police is recruiting to address the trooper shortage. They need help.
"We highly encourage anybody with any questions or any desire to get out there and protect their state, the great state of Nevada, to please come on our website, NevadaStatePolice.com and speak to a recruiter today," Trooper Ashlee Wellman said.
But Kaplan says for that to succeed, the state needs to step up. Because state police, including troopers, make about 50% what city police officers or deputies make.
He says that might explain why he's hearing more often that someone can drive all the way from the California border to Las Vegas without seeing a single trooper on the highway.
Find more investigative reporting from 13 Investigates at ktnv.com/13-investigates.