Just as Nevadans begin to settle into the depths of the holiday season – dry-cleaning those ugly Christmas sweaters, preparing potluck dishes for the office holiday party, notching those final projects before year’s end – those living in southern Nevada have been blindsided by a string of deadly accidents. Ranging from the tragically common to the truly bizarre, these Las Vegas fatalities have left many in the community wondering whether it is possible to achieve a greater level of safety in the southern Nevada region.
Pedestrian Deaths Continue to Mount
For years Nevada public safety officials have been trying to get a grip on the state’s troublesome rate of pedestrian fatalities. Not only have those efforts failed, the problem has actually grown worse. In 2010 there were 41 pedestrian fatalities statewide in Nevada. That figure has risen each year, with more and more pedestrian fatalities reported each year as the decade has unfolded. By 2017, there were 100 pedestrian fatalities in Nevada – more than twice the number in 2010 and a statistic showing anything but progress toward reducing this deadly phenomenon.  In just a five-year period – measuring the years 2013 to 2017 – there were nearly 400 pedestrian fatalities statewide across Nevada. 
Sadly, as the year of 2019 approaches its close there is every reason to think the trend will continue to worsen. According to one media report from October, the city of Reno had already suffered nine pedestrian fatalities in 2019.  Since the approximately 500,000 people in the greater Reno-Sparks area constitute a populace less than one-quarter the size of Clark County, one would expect that there have been at least four times as many Las Vegas pedestrian fatalities. If that is correct, then we would expect the Las Vegas fatalities to have numbered about 40 by October, which puts the state fully on-track for 50 pedestrian fatalities in 2019.
And that is just based on population statistics; the reality is likely dimmer. One analysis recently offered the suggestion that southern Nevada is built to invite pedestrian fatalities – not that this is the goal, but that the car-focused engineering of the Las Vegas area is favors cars massively more than other forms of transit, creating an environment ripe for Las Vegas pedestrian fatalities. One recent pedestrian fatality is illustrative: an elderly woman was struck and killed while crossing outside of a crosswalk in the Enterprise neighborhood of Las Vegas.  Reporting is thin on this particular tragedy, but it is possible that the victim chose to cross where she did because she could not walk easily and her only options for a safe crossing were prohibitively far away; even where crosswalks do exist, if city blocks are too large, or traffic moves too quickly, pedestrians may look for their own solutions and instead reap deadly consequences.
Yet crossing in a crosswalk is no guarantee of safety; a man was recently arrested after causing multiple crashes as he fled police – he was suspected of driving under the influence. During his attempt to escape capture, he ran a red light and struck and killed a pedestrian who was crossing a street in an intersection with the signal permitting the victim to cross.  While the actions of drivers and pedestrians both matter, the built environment is often a factor in Las Vegas pedestrian fatalities. By some measures, Nevada is the state with the fifth-most pedestrian deaths. 
From Common to Crazy
Every death sends ripples of loss throughout the community. A Las Vegas man shot to death as retribution for a fight at a nightclub is survived by 17 children; his death easily affected 20 lives even without considering the impact of his loss on his workplace, extended family, and other social communities. 
Similarly, it would be a grave mistake to minimize the significance of several Las Vegas fatalities. On a single day last week – December 13, a Friday and thus a rare “Friday the Thirteenth” – there were at least four fatalities and one person critically injured. One of these deaths was that of the elderly woman described above. Another crash involved a motorcycle and occurred near US-95 and Decatur Boulevard; that accident was originally reported as an injury crash that was later “upgraded” to a Las Vegas fatality. Two more people were killed late on the night of the 13th – technically Saturday, December 14, but likely involving parties who had begun their days on the Friday previous – when there was an automobile collision in North Las Vegas. The last incident referenced was another motorcycle crash that also involved two passenger vehicles and resulted in the motorcycle driver being transported to University Medical Center’s trauma center in critical condition.  The odds for a motorcycle driver in a motorcycle-versus-vehicle crash are never strong, and that incident may have ultimately resulted in yet another Las Vegas fatality.
While these are nothing less than tragedies, they are also the kinds of incidents that have become all too familiar. But a less common kind of death also occurred recently. Police responded to reports of gunfire outside of a Buddhist temple in North Las Vegas. They found several individuals who had fled the temple unharmed, and they also learned of several incidents of arson:
- 8pm on Sunday, December 15: reports of multiple gunshots
- Two separate fires found, extinguished at the temple
- Fire discovered, extinguished at nearby home
- Suspect found dead in a nearby backyard
Fortunately, emergency responders were able to protect the would-be victims, and none were harmed. But the suspect was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound: yet another Las Vegas fatality, but one that is much harder to comprehend.