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Las Vegas law enforcement, traffic safety experts issue warning about wrong-way drivers

Three wrong-way drivers in three days in Las Vegas
Las Vegas law enforcement, traffic safety experts issue warning about wrong-way drivers
Las Vegas law enforcement, traffic safety experts issue warning about wrong-way drivers
Posted at 8:09 PM, Apr 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-05 23:39:05-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Drive sober and slow down! That’s the message law enforcement is sharing with Las Vegas valley drivers after a deadly head-on crash killed both drivers over the weekend.

13 Action News spoke with Nevada Highway Patrol and the Department of Public Safety, who say these wrong way crashes happen way too much and they're often the result of an impaired driver.

"Lately, it feels like I’m getting called out almost every other night and it takes a toll on you," said NHP Trooper Travis Smaka, who gets called to the scene of every deadly crash in Southern Nevada.

Too often, he says they involve an impaired driver going the wrong way on the road.

"I've got to say, in my experience responding to these calls in Las Vegas, the majority of the time, especially on the ones we find and, unfortunately, the ones we miss and they’re involved in a fatal crash, impairment tends to be a factor," said Trooper Smaka.

Andrew Bennett, with Nevada's Office of Traffic Safety, can confirm impairment is the issue in the overwhelming majority of wrong way crashes.

"In 2019 alone, 90% of the wrong-way fatalities were impairment-related, and this is a common theme. In 2017, 100% of the wrong-way fatalities were impairment-related. For the most part, I’m confident in saying that it’s not the road's fault, it’s someone driving on the road," said Bennett.

Smaka and Bennett agree we all need to be better about driving sober and slowing down, or we risk more deadly crashes and devastated families.

"Going on scene after scene and seeing these horrific, violent crashes, it weighs on us. We’re human beings and it’s not lost on us this ripple effect. Every time we lose one person in one of these horrible crashes, it’s countless people that are affected by that. You’ve got their family, you’ve got their friends, you got their coworkers, and then you’ve got every first responder on scene who shows up and has to see, just the graphic nature of the scenes, and do your job. But when you get home at night, I mean it’s their faces you see when you close your eyes and it just weighs on you and you get really frustrated and you try to do everything we can to curb this," said Trooper Smaka.

The cause of the deadly wrong-way crash on the 215 beltway near Far Hills Avenue over the weekend is still under investigation.

Several local law enforcement agencies did a high-visibility DUI enforcement on Saturday night, not far from the crash in Summerlin and the northwest valley. That effort took 22 impaired drivers off the road in a matter of hours, only proving Smaka and Bennett's point that impairment is the biggest issue they're facing on valley roads right now.