I-Team: Engineering Safer Roads for Pedestrians - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Engineering Safer Roads for Pedestrians

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LAS VEGAS --  Could better engineering and road planning save lives? Already, this year the number of people killed on Clark County's roads is double what it was last year.

As of May 11, 2012, there had been 69 deaths on Las Vegas valley roads. The I-Team has been exploring the issue in an effort to get answers and bring about changes to make roads safer.

Feet, inches, minutes, and seconds are all measurements that can mean the difference between life and death. Daril Lev darts through traffic, not using a crosswalk, because he needs to catch the bus to get to work.

"Most people think, he works at McDonalds, that's minimum wage. No, actually, I'm one of the shift leaders and I get paid $12.50 an hour. It means a lot to me."

It's Carl Scarbrough's job at the Regional Transportation Commission to juggle numerous bus schedules. His attempts to synchronize bus transfers with the changing traffic.

"If you drive in this town, you know the trip you take today may take 10 minutes. Tomorrow, it may take 14, the next day it may take 20, or seven. Trying to build that into a schedule is, I won't say it's impossible, but it's impractical," said Scarbrough.

Traffic engineers have a 2014 deadline to re-time crosswalk lights which will give everybody a little more time to cross the street. Even so, county engineer Joanna Wadsworth says industry practice limits her to a strict book of guidelines.

"The MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) is a very thick manual. It is based on years of study and best practices throughout the country. It is updated as needed when there are new technologies or new ways of implementing traffic devices," Wadsworth said.

Engineers are bound to the book but there are times they do think outside the lines. The engineering bible dictates that Maryland Parkway should be 45 miles per hour. Engineers reduced it to 30 miles per hour -- at parts -- because of the high number of pedestrians. That change took place a decade ago.

Something called HAWK could represent the future for crosswalks. It's being used on Sahara Avenue and 15th Street. Flashing lights tell drivers on both sides of the two streets to stop. Installing more of these systems could cost between $70,000 and $190,000 each.

Better engineering and planning can't fix everything. Pedestrians will still cross streets outside of a crosswalk. 8 News NOW witnessed several cases including one involving Josh, who did not want his last name revealed.

He said he doesn't intend to break any laws but he is on a break from work and needs to get to the other side of the street quickly. 

"I understand. That's why I intend to be fast with it," he said.

Lev admits he is also breaking the law because he can't afford to miss the bus.

"I've had to jaywalk because if I don't make that bus, then I'm going to have to wait another half-hour for the next bus. If Metro's watching this, here I am come and arrest me. I'm sorry. I'd rather catch that bus."

The RTC says it is looking for ways to prevent people from jaywalking because they are rushing to catch transfer buses. The RTC has already rejected the idea of putting displays on its stops showing when the next bus will arrive. That would cost too much. The RTC does have a text message service that let's riders type in a bus stop number and get up-to-date information on the next arriving bus.


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