In Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago a Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP) trooper narrowly escaped what could have been a life-altering – or even life-ending – injury when he avoided being struck by an out-of-control car. The near-miss provides a kind of silver lining for an otherwise unsettling story, and it bears an eerie resemblance to a tragedy that unfolded in Las Vegas in January and another recent incident in Reno.
First, let us begin with the facts of the recent incident. According to news reports, the trooper was conducting a traffic stop on U.S. 95 on the morning of Saturday, February 16 when the events took place.  Although the reasons for the trooper’s traffic stop were not clear from the reporting, the responding trooper was talking to the driver of the vehicle he had stopped when the crash happened.  It appears that the trooper was speaking to the driver through the driver’s side window, leaving him exposed to vehicles moving in the various lanes to the left of the right shoulder of the freeway.
During this discussion, a Honda CRV – a model of mid-size sport utility vehicle – crashed into the rear end of the trooper’s patrol vehicle, which was parked behind the vehicle he had stopped for the traffic inquiry.  The CRV began to push the trooper’s patrol vehicle forward toward the stopped vehicle, and it appears that the sound of the collision alerted the trooper. He had just enough time to leap partway into the window of the stopped vehicle, protecting much of his body inside the frame of the stopped vehicle. While that maneuver – which left the trooper’s lower extremities hanging exposed out of the stopped vehicle – could have caused a devastating injury to his legs or spine, fortunately the additional clearance allowed him to mostly avoid the cascade of vehicles. The trooper suffered only minor injuries. 
The driver, a man in his early 20s, was arrested on various charges including suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), failing to wear a seat belt, reckless driving, failure to use due care, failure to yield to an emergency vehicle, and possession of a firearm while intoxicated. 
This incident – certainly a case of a tragedy narrowly averted – had echoes of other recent events in the state that resulted in significantly more upsetting outcomes. had sadder outcomes. As discussed in this blog about two months ago, two Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officers were struck by a drunk driver while conducting a roadside stop. That incident carried some additional irony in that the officers were responding to a suspected DUI crash when another driver, who was almost certainly committing his own DUI offense, crashed into their vehicles. As with this most recent crash, the later-arriving vehicle crashed into the officers’ patrol vehicles – in this case it was one officer’s motorcycle and the other officer’s police cruiser – and pushed those heavy, dangerous obstacles into the officers’ bodies. One officer escaped with minor injuries, but the other officer was predicted to lose significant function in his legs. 
In the northern part of the state, in Reno, an NHP trooper was struck while investigating a crash on I-80.  While inclemental weather and hazardous road conditions were believed to be part of the cause – as opposed to driving while intoxicated, as in the recent Las Vegas crashes – nonetheless this incident is another example of how incautious drivers can imperil first responders.  It is also a reminder of how dangerous the work of law enforcement officers is.
One striking thing about the most recent Las Vegas incident is that it occurred at approximately 7:45am on a Saturday.  The lion’s share of vehicle-versus-pedestrian crashes occur between the hours of 6 p.m. and 12 a.m., although weekend accidents contribute significantly to this statistic. Accidents of this kind that occur between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. make up just 9 percent of the total, one of the lower shares by time bloc. And during that time of day, crashes that occur on weekdays are roughly three times more common than weekend crashes.  This Saturday-morning crash was really something of an outlier, especially given that alcohol was involved; the heavy drinkers are usually on the roads in the wee hours of the morning or else once they have slept off the night’s activities. One might speculate that the CRV driver had become intoxicated, gone to sleep, woken up in the early morning somewhere other than his home, and then tried to make it back to his own bed. He did not make it home, but he should be thankful that both he and the trooper he injured will get to return home someday.
Nevada’s roads take the lives of some 300 people per year.  According to one analysis by the federal National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately one-third of traffic fatalities in Nevada involved at least one driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) in excess of 0.08. More than one in five deadly car accidents in Nevada involved at least one driver whose BAC was over 0.15, which is nearly twice the legal limit.  At least two of the crashes discussed here indicate the hazards of mixing alcohol with driving, a phenomenon that is all-too familiar in a state with a strong economic investment in gambling, sports bars, and other forms of adult entertainment.
If you or a loved one have been hurt in an automobile accident, whether or not it involved a driver suspected of drinking and driving, you should consult an experienced personal injury attorney at the first opportunity. A skilled accident lawyer will help you understand your legal rights, the opportunities and challenges presented by injury lawsuits, and the process involved with whichever option you choose.
Did you Know: Benson & Bingham was selected as a Best of Las Vegas Winner in the category lawyers by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the city’s longest running reader’s choice awards.