Traffic Fatality Numbers Flashing Over Freeways - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Traffic Fatality Numbers Flashing Over Freeways

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It's always on, 24 hours a day this week and returning on a recurring basis…a dramatic way to cut down on the state's rising death toll. Going northbound on 395 right before the Plumb exit, look up and you'll see the number of deaths in Nevada that involved a motor vehicle, flashing on one of our digital message signs.

The Nevada Department of Transportation's Meg Ragonese told us, "We're really using this as a hard-hitting message and reminder for people to drive safely." Hard-hitting is right. It hopes to stop a disturbing trend: an alarming uptick in fatalities from year's past. In Nevada, there were 12 more crash fatalities in 2012 than in 2011. 2013 is on its way to topping that, especially in Washoe County, which already has more than double the deaths over the same time last year:

Nevada Traffic Fatalities:

2011: 246

2012: 258

2013 (so far): 100

WASHOE COUNTY (as of this time each year):

2012: 4

2013: 9

We're not alone. Road deaths in the U.S. rose 5.3% last year. Crash fatalities went up every quarter of 2012 compared with 2011:

U.S. Traffic Fatalities:

2012: 34,080 (up 5.3% from 2011)

Meg Ragonese knows the sad statistics all too well, telling us, "The trend is up currently up, yeah." How can this be, since cars are safer and we've been flooded with public awareness campaigns? Ragonese believes "it comes down to driver behavior...drivers not focusing on the road, not paying attention."

The flashing fatality number could turn things around, but some think it could make a bad problem worse. Reno driver Penny McWilliams told us, "I actually think that's more unsafe because that's going to distract the drivers. They're going to see that flashing light and they're going to want to look at that versus the road." In response to that, Ragonese said "We at the Department of Transportation are very aware of distractions. I personally don't think it's distracting, and we don't put up any unnecessary signs."

They think the signs will be more effective than dangerous, aimed right where it needs to folks behind the wheel, like John Esler, who told us, "To be reminded of those things…that is something we all need." Reno driver Tom Shima agreed: "It certainly grabs your attention, that's for sure." Will it cause him to think twice while he's driving? "Oh I think so."

The flashing sign on northbound 395 just before the Plumb exit won't be the only one. The fatality number message will hit all digital boards throughout the state. For now, this is what you'll see on them…until they'll have to update the number.

-written by John Potter

The state's Strategic Highway Safety Plan wants to cut traffic fatalities in half by 2030, with the ultimate goal of zero fatalities. There's much more on a special zero-fatalities website:

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