LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Nevadans have been under stay-at-home orders connected to slowing the spread of COVID-19 for months, but that has not stopped the number of impaired drivers and wrong-way crashes on roadways.
Under the cover of darkness and in the early morning hours, Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Bryce Beaver is on a mission to stop impaired drivers.
For him, the mission is personal.
Years ago, he lost a friend to an impaired driver.
"We'll have a reporting party call in a wrong-way driver and then the next call will be that accident and that's not a good feeling," said Trooper Beaver.
The reports of wrong-way drivers and crashes have not stopped since the public has been asked to stay home.
On May 6, NHP reported a suspected DUI driver nearly slammed head-on into another driver at the 215 and Lake Mead Boulevard.
On May 9, a wrong-way driver was arrested with an alleged blood alcohol content of .201, or close to three times the legal Nevada limit.
The next day, NHP revealed at least 3 wrong-way incidents within a week's time frame and all of them involved impaired driving.
According to authorities, by early February, NHP had received more than 50 wrong-way driver calls, averaging about 2 per day.
In February, authorities were able to stop a yellow work truck after the driver had entered the US 95 at Casino Center Boulevard in downtown Las Vegas and drove, in the carpool lane, to US 95 and Jones in the wrong direction.
The distance is approximately 4 miles.
The driver was arrested under suspicion of DUI.
"In the majority of these wrong-way calls, impairment is a huge factor, whether that's alcohol, marijuana, or any other illicit drug, or a combination of all three," said Trooper Beaver.
The topic of wrong-way drivers and solutions to stop them has been studied by federal authorities for years.
According to a National Transportation Safety Board special investigation, the issue is woven among a variety of issues, mainly societal vices, road design and other human factors.
The report studied deadly, wrong-way crash data from 2004 to 2009.
Investigators found, of the reported crashes, the wrong way drivers were under the influence of alcohol 60 percent of the time.
A deeper look at the data revealed, of those drivers under the influence, 59 percent of them had a BAC great than .15 or nearly twice the legal Nevada limit.
"Picture being in a vehicle and you have headlights coming right at you and there's no place to go," said Sandy Heverly with STOP DUI Nevada.
Heverly says the death and destruction on roads is largely preventable and it boils down to making choices.
"No one is exempt, no one," said Heverly.
"They may think they are, but they're not," added Heverly.
13 Investigates visited the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada's Traffic Management Center to get a look at new technology in the effort to identify and stop wrong-way drivers.
The Traffic Management Center, or TMC for short, is a collaboration the RTC of Southern Nevada, Nevada Department of Transportation and Nevada Highway Patrol to keep traffic flowing as smoothly as possible.
NDOT is in the middle of testing a system located at US 95 and Durango which can alert staff at the TMC of a potential wrong-way driver in real-time.
Illia points out the system was installed at the location due to construction and timing, not because there is a large propensity of wrong-way drivers in that area.
"This is the first of its kind here in Southern Nevada," said Tony Illia with the Nevada Department of Transportation.
The system is comprised of sensors and a pole-mounted camera that activates flashing lights and sends live video directly to the TMC near-instantaneous dispatching of law enforcement or other resources.
"We are going to try it out, if it saves even one life, it's well worth the investment," explained Illia.
Studies have down the system can prevent wrong-way crashes by 30 percent, according to Illia.
Illia says the pilot phase is wrapping up and depending on the success and funding, NDOT plans to roll it out across Southern Nevada.
According to federal regulators, new technology such as in-car warnings and GPS alerts are quickly becoming features in vehicles and eventually, self-driving cars may eliminate wrong-way crashes.