With the first week of the tournament in the books, March Madness season is upon us in Nevada. This year, Nevada’s men’s team was selected to the NCAA tournament as a first four team, the team’s first entry since 2019; unfortunately, they lost in the play-in game to Arizona State. UNLV’s lady rebels made it to their second straight NCAA tournament after winning their second straight Mountain-west regular season and conference.
As exciting as this season is for Nevada basketball fans, both in Northern and Southern Nevada, as well as sports betting and basketball fans across the nation, it is important to stay safe on Nevada roads during this season (similar to the Super Bowl). If you are planning on watching the games at your nearest sports bar or casino, or throwing a watch party for your favorite team, it is important to get to and from your location safe and sober.
Fatalities Continue to Decrease on Nevada Roads in 2023
The number of deaths on Nevada roads has continued to decrease in February according to preliminary statistics from state officials. There were thirteen car accident deaths reported by the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety, which is ten less than the twenty-three fatalities in February 2022. Additionally, there have been thirty-nine traffic deaths in 2023, which is a twenty-three percent drop from the first two months of 2022. However, impairment and speeding remain the top two factors in deadly crashes in Nevada.
Rising Marijuana-related DUIs in Nevada
DUI crashes remain a cause of concern for traffic officials in Nevada, and as mentioned previously, it remains a leading cause for traffic fatalities in the state. When discussing DUIs, the conversation usually centers on alcohol, however Southern Nevada law enforcement have become increasingly worried about marijuana related DUIs, especially as legal Marijuana Lounges continue to open in Nevada’s Southern region. Las Vegas law enforcement note that in order to catch stoned drivers, they conduct similar tests as with drunk drivers, such as if they can keep their balance on one leg for at least thirty-seconds, or walk in a straight line. However, they also check factors such as if the subject is crossing their eyes when following the officer’s fingers. However, officers note that marijuana-impairment impacts individuals differently and screening for impairment is not as cut and dry as with alcohol impairment.
Fatal accidents related to stoned or drug impaired drivers continues to rise in Nevada, and in 2021, there were thirty-eight fatalities on Nevada roads, nearly double from 2016. The state’s most recent data also notes the presence of THC (chemical in marijuana that causes people to get high) in seventy other fatal crashes where drivers also used alcohol or some other drug.
With 2023 being the first year that Nevadans can smoke weed publicly, law enforcement fear that this number will continue to rise. In light of this, Clark County and the city of Las Vegas have given the green light to marijuana lounges, businesses that act as a bar for weed consumption. UNLV Traffic Safety Coordinator, Erin Breen, voiced her concern for these developments, stating that “we are allowing yet another step in the marijuana journey without changing the laws in the state of Nevada”. However, she did state that there would be regulations to increase safety, including regulations requiring lounges to create driving prevention plans. These include a twenty-four hour no-tow policy so customers can return for their car once sober, and requiring establishments stop serving cannabis products two hours before close. 
Staying Safe and Sober During March Madness
If you are planning on drinking while enjoying this month’s March Madness games, stay safe by planning ahead and not drinking and driving. Taking the following steps can not only keep yourself safe, but can save lives:
- Always have a SOBER designated driver— it is important to have a designated driver when you plan on going out with friends and drinking to avoid the perils of drunk driving. However, it is important that this driver remains sober throughout the entire night, and you trust this person to do so.
- Avoid drinking when alone— If you plan on going out alone, avoid drinking as research shows that you are more likely to take risks behind the wheel while alone in the car.
- Download a Ride share App prior to going out— Using a rideshare app like Uber or Lyft makes it easier to not have to drive after drinking. To be better prepared for a night out, download the app before leaving and link a payment method ahead of time. This will make calling a ride more convenient and make you more likely to use it when under the influence.
- Spend the Night— If you are at a friend or family member’s house, and you have drunk, it might be better to ask to stay the night instead of driving home. Conversely, if you are hosting a house party and notice someone has been drinking, offer that they stay the night and not allow them to drive themselves home. 
Image Credit: Tim Gerland