Starting this week, law enforcement in Las Vegas and Reno will begin a joint campaign to reduce distracted driving by cracking down on phone use while driving. This new campaign comes in the wake of increasing road fatalities in 2021. The campaign, which is called “Joining Forces” is a statewide grant-funded effort to promote safe driving practices that will take place between July 19 and August 2. Nevada Law enforcement officers remind drivers that “It takes a person five seconds to read a text message and, in that time, if they’re behind the wheel going 55 mph that five seconds, they’re looking at their phone they’re traveling the whole length of a football field”. Additionally, in 2019, distracted drivers took the lives of 3,142 drivers, and the number continues to increase every year.
Distracted driving is a major cause of fatal accidents, and a survey of 4,000 Nevadans shows that one in four Nevadans admit to using social media while behind the wheel. Undoubtedly, being on social media can have fatal consequences, and Nevada law states that using any hand-held device including phones and GPS while driving is against the law. In Nevada, the penalty for distracted driving ranges from $50 for a first offense and increases to $100 for a second and $250 for third and subsequent offenses. 
In efforts to increase traffic safety, Nevada Highway Patrol troops are also swapping out their usual patrol vehicles for semi-trucks.  Starting July 13, the “Badge on Board” program will use semi-trucks to help troopers on motorcycles make traffic stops. The truck will be driven by a licensed professional, while a law enforcement officer will ride in the passenger seat to spot violations. The violation will then be radioed out to a motorcycle cop who can make the stop. Law enforcement hopes to gain a better point of view and focus on certain issues like crossing solid lines, unsafe lane changes, following others too closely, and speeding. Sergeant James Madsen states that so far this year, NHP has investigated 39 fatal crashes in Southern Nevada resulting in 47 deaths. Madsen hopes these traffic stops will encourage Nevadans to drive more defensively and with more caution.
Recent Accidents in Reno and Las Vegas
This past month, both Reno and Las Vegas have seen several fatal accidents. On July 9, one person was killed, and another person was injured in a crash on I-80 eastbound in Reno. The accident occurred when a vehicle, a sedan, going westbound was speeding and crashed into a semi-truck. The collision caused the sedan to cross the median and collide with another truck going in the eastbound direction. Nevada Highway Patrol believes that the sedan was involved in a shooting incident earlier where one vehicle shot into another. They found bullet casings and gunshot holes in the car upon arrival. 
On July 19, Las Vegas officials responded to an early morning crash that resulted in one fatality and two injured passengers. Officials believe that the driver was under the influence at the time of the crash. These unfortunate events remind us that unsafe driving practices such as driving under the influence, distracted driving, and speeding can have fatal consequences.
What You Can Do to Be a Safe Driver
Being a safe driver can reduce the chance of you getting in an accident or causing one. One of the biggest ways to help is by putting away the distractions. This means putting your phone away in a place that you are not compelled to reach for it. You could also consider using Bluetooth or other hands-free means to speak on the phone. Other distractions can include consuming food or drink while behind the wheel. Eating can be as dangerous as being on the phone, and it is best to pull over or stop somewhere if you want to eat. Lastly, other passengers in your car can serve as distractions in some instances. If you are traveling with others, ensure that everyone is wearing a seatbelt, and minimize unruly behavior, loud shouting, or any other behaviors that may cause you to take your eyes off the road.
Another tip to driving safer is to drive defensively. The following are some tips on safe driving:
- Think about Your Safety First— Reacting to an aggressive or reckless driver can put you in danger. Leave plenty of space between you and the car in front. Always lock your doors and wear your seatbelt to protect you from being thrown from the car in a crash.
- Pay Attention to Your Surroundings — Keep your eyes on the road and check your rear and side mirrors. This can prevent collisions with dangerous drivers, as well as protect the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.
- Follow the 3- to-4-second rule—The 3-to-4-second rule will help maintain a safe following distance and provide enough time for you to brake to a stop if necessary. In bad weather, increase your following distance an additional second for each condition such as rain, fog, nighttime driving, or following a large truck or motorcycle.
- Decrease Your Speed— Speed limits signs are in place for a reason. Remember, they are not a suggestion, but an indicator of the safe speed to travel on the road. High speeds make it hard to control your vehicle if something goes wrong.