The partnership among the law enforcement agencies comes as part of the Joining Forces grant, aiming for Zero Fatalities in Nevada and bringing awareness to the dangers of drunk driving and cell phone use while driving. The program is also addressing issues like seat belt use, speed and pedestrian safety. Sergeant Jeanmarie Walsh, of SPD Traffic Patrol, said Thursday more officers and various checkpoints in the region will aid catching impaired drivers before a serious accident occurs.
“Sobriety checkpoints will be conducted throughout the area,” Walsh said. “These checkpoints will focus on identifying impaired drivers before they are involved in a crash, injuring or killing members of our community. According to the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration, a DUI costs an average of $10,000 when including legal fees, loss of driver license, vehicle impoundment and higher insurance rates.”
Walsh said the Joining Forces campaign is about much more than pulling over motorists and issuing tickets or arrests for impaired driving. Officers throughout the region will be addressing the safety issues that accompany the various driving hazards.
“We really want people to make better choices and we would love to have zero arrests for DUI for the next two weeks,” she said. “We really would rather people make a better choice and we want to help spread the word about possibly getting into an accident. We want to try to keep them from making a bad decision, and if they choose not to drive, we will accept that as a win.”
Statistics from the Zero Fatalities web site showed 27 percent of all 2011 traffic fatalities in Nevada were alcohol-related, one person dies every 51 minutes from a drunk driving crash in the United States and fatal impaired driving crashes in Nevada mostly involved a single vehicle.
“DUI is probably one of our more prevalent violations that we see,” Walsh said. “I don’t think it is any worse than normal but I don’t think it is any better than normal. It seems like it stays pretty steady.”
In Sparks, Walsh said it is the major corridors of the area such as Sparks Boulevard, Pyramid Highway and Vista Boulevard where impaired drivers have a higher chance of veering off the road due to impairment, drowsiness and lack of surrounding vehicles. She said the summer event and holiday season also brings about more impaired drivers throughout the city.
“When you are driving in that (impaired) state you tend to pay a little bit more attention when there is more people around,” Walsh said. “It is when you kind of get out where traffic thins out, then you get tired.
“Most of our major accidents involving major injury or death are out on Sparks Blvd. some out on Vista. People start veering when it is late at night and they are not paying attention. I wouldn’t say it is centralized in one particular area.”
During this campaign last year, Nevada’s Joining Forces partners made nearly 1,800 stops statewide that resulted in 132 DUI arrests. In 2012, 25.5 percent of the fatalities on Nevada’s roads were alcohol related. Sparks PD offers the following tips for safety when driving:
- If you will be drinking, plan a safe and sober way to return to your home before going out.
- If you’re impaired, call a taxi or sober friend, or use public transportation.
- Contact local police at 311 or *NHP from your mobile phone to report a drunk driver on the road.
- If you see people about to drive impaired, take their keys and help get them a ride with a sober driver.