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Task force tackles issue of deadly streets | News

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Task force tackles issue of deadly streets
Hit-and-run crash on Wed. Jan. 14 at Tropicana and Jones.

LAS VEGAS -- The new year is barely one month old and already five people have been killed in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department's jurisdiction.

 Four of those deaths were pedestrians. 

A task force, the Southern Nevada Traffic Safety Committee, shared ideas Tuesday which included tough new penalties to stop the death and destruction on the roads. The committee is made up law enforcement, business leaders and victim advocates.

Just last week, a 27-year-old man was hit by a car near Tropicana Avenue and Jones Boulevard. His body was tossed into nearby bushes. It was two hours after the crash before he was discovered.

Police are still searching for the driver.

Lawmakers want to stiffen penalties to stop people from fleeing the scenes of crashes.

"It's a simple message, drive safe, buckle up, obey the limits, obey the street signs," said Lt. David Jacoby, Metro's traffic bureau.

The message is simple, but Metro says it wasn't enough last year.

Metro made the controversial move to stop responding to non-injury crashes so officers could be freed up to write more tickets to traffic offenders. Overall, citations were up 8 percent and deadly crashes were down more than 20 percent compared to 2013.

Constant reinforcement is the key to reducing collisions and fatal crashes, police say. 

The task force took a look at the numbers and formulated an attack plan to deal with the carnage on the roads.

Hit-and-run crashes resulting in death are a big problem for police.

"We just heard about this other one now, where this gentleman was lying in the bushes for two hours before anybody even discovered his body," said Sandy Heverly, STOP DUI.

Victim advocates are pushing for harsher penalties for people who leave the scene of crashes. They want mandatory fines and prison time without probation.

"It's so heinous," Heverly said. "It's on the same level of driving under the influence."

Nevada State Senator Mark Manendo is set to introduce a bill that would toughen hit-and-run laws to the same as felony DUI.

"Sadly, you folks are reporting on it. Almost every day we are seeing something on television that a pedestrian is getting killed, someone is impaired, somebody's on their phone, they're crashing into somebody else," he said.

The committee says a three-pronged approach with education, engineering and enforcement is critical for traffic safety.

Sheriff Joe Lombardo told committee members that the high number deaths on the roads is unacceptable. He says having more officers on the streets would help with enforcement.

"You can't address or change people's mindset unless you have some sort of enforcement."