Las Vegas Personal Injury Lawyer » Blog » Reno Police Conducts Pedestrian Safety Operation & the Intersection of Social Justice and Pedestrian Safety

Reno Police Conducts Pedestrian Safety Operation & the Intersection of Social Justice and Pedestrian Safety

During the last week of April, the Reno Police Department issued fifty- three traffic citations as well as five warnings during a pedestrian safety operation. This enforcement operation occurred at the areas in Northern Nevada that have seen the highest concentration of pedestrian-related accidents, as well as fatalities.

According to the Nevada Department of Public Safety, the highest concentration of pedestrian-related crashes in Northern Nevada are in the following areas [1]:

  • Reno: Virginia Street, Fourth Street, and Plumas Street
  • Sparks: Victorian Avenue, Prater Way, and Keystone Avenue
  • Carson City: North Carson Street, South Carson Street, and Curry Street
  • Fernley: Main Street, East Fourth Street, and South Virginia Street
  • Fallon: Main Street, Williams Avenue, and Center Street

These areas are typically characterized by high traffic volumes, high pedestrian activity, and a lack of pedestrian-friendly infrastructure. As a result, they are at a higher risk for pedestrian-related crashes.

Efforts were focused on both drivers and pedestrians that were violating Nevada laws. State laws require drivers to yield to pedestrians, as well as prohibit vehicles from passing other vehicles that are stopped for pedestrians. The Nevada Office of Traffic Safety says that motor vehicles should follow the “Look Up, Look out” rule when sharing the road with pedestrians.

When it comes to pedestrian laws, the law requires pedestrians to use sidewalks, crosswalks, or pedestrian bridges, as well as follow any posted traffic signs, and traffic signals. If there is no sidewalk present, pedestrians should walk on the left side of the street, facing traffic.

The Pedestrian Safety Operation is part of a state-wide effort to reduce traffic deaths after 2022 saw the highest number of traffic-related deaths in more than a decade. Pedestrian fatalities have been a particular area of concern, and a UNLV study from December 2022 suggested this number may continue to rise if no action is taken. [2]

Social Justice and Pedestrian Laws

Jaywalking has been illegal in most states for more than a century, but a recent Pew Research study shows that police sometimes ticket people of color for this crime more than others. Other critics of these laws, like Mike McGinn, the executive director of a pedestrian advocacy group, America Walks, stated that “It doesn’t really improve pedestrian safety. It is a part of a culture of blaming pedestrians.”

Because of this criticism and the research to back it up, many states have moved away from strictly enforcing jaywalking. One of these states is Nevada, where it is no longer a misdemeanor to jaywalk. Virginia has also enacted similar measures, including a law that prohibits officer from stopping a pedestrian just for jaywalking, and California passed a law that would allow people to cross outside of the posted crosswalk or intersection as long as it is safe to do so.

Peter Norton, a professor at the University of Virginia who is an expert in the history of jaywalking in America, lauded these changes in Nevada and other states as “modest, but significant”. He noted that this is an evolution in attitude of how we view pedestrians, which he hopes can translate into more pedestrian mindfulness and safety while on the roads.

Does Pedestrian Safety Really have Anything to do with Social Justice?

A 2022 report by Smart Growth America, a nonprofit coalition of advocacy groups found that between 2016 and 2020, Black, Hispanic, and low-income pedestrians were most likely to be killed while walking. America’s lowest-income neighborhoods were twice that of the middle-income neighborhoods, and three-times that of higher-income neighborhoods based on census data. One explanation for this is the poor infrastructure and lack of safety features characterized by lower-income areas, as well as the fact many lower-income households in America do not have access to a vehicle and thus rely on walking and public transportation to get around. A jaywalking ticket could be as high as $200, which could be a significant burden on those who are low-income. This results in a cycle and upholds systemic disparities within poorer communities, and communities of color.[3]

In addition race seems to play somewhat of a factor in who gets ticketed, as well as pedestrian safety. Between 2016 and 2020, Black pedestrians were killed twice as much as the rate of their white counterparts. Stats from the California Bicycle Coalition found that between 2018 and 2020 police officers in certain California cities were nearly four and a half times more likely to stop Black pedestrians who were jaywalking than White ones. A New York City study in 2019 reflected similar results, and Black and Hispanic New Yorkers received ninety percent of jaywalking tickets although they make up only fifty-five percent of the population. A Pro-Public and Florida Times-Union report saw similar statistics, and in 2017 they noted that Black people in Jacksonville were nearly three times more likely than other ethnicities to be ticketed for pedestrian violations.

In Nevada, to combat this, certain minor traffic violations have been decriminalized, and have turned them into civil infractions. [4] This means that instead of spending six months in jail, or receiving a fine of up to a thousand dollars, jaywalking is only punishable by a fine of one-hundred dollars.





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