Tired of watching fatal car accidents in their neighborhood, Pleasant Valley residents are petitioning the Nevada Department of Transportation and the Nevada Highway Patrol to bolster safety standards along Highway 395.
Three people were killed in two separate crashes on Highway 395 in Pleasant Valley last week, while 32 fatal accidents on the highway have occurred so far this year. That's up from 27 at this time last year, according to the Nevada Highway Patrol.
"We were already working on this before those accidents, but that was just the nail in the coffin," said David Jones, a Pleasant Valley insurance broker and head of the Highway 395 South Safety Movement.
The group has collected nearly 300 signatures on a petition asking NDOT to install a stoplight at the intersection of Laramie Drive and Highway 395 South, and oversized speed limit signs with flashing yellow lights along the highway, hanging yellow lights and concrete jersey walls at various highway intersections.
"We have to pursue these avenues," Jones said. "People in this area tell me they're fearing for their lives."
Nevada Department of Transportation Assistant Director Ruedy Edgington said a stoplight at Laramie Drive is out of the question.
"It's not really a typical stoplight intersection because of the amount of traffic coming off of the side streets," Edgington said. "You can't use stoplights to prevent speed."
He said a lack of funds would also prevent any major projects.
After a study conducted by NDOT in 2001 on 395 Highway safety, Edgington said, residents living along the highway asked NDOT to spend its money on the Interstate 580 bypass instead of safety improvements along Highway 395, such as wider shoulders.
"The community opted not to do improvements and that's not necessarily a bad thing," Edgington said.
Edgington said oversized speed limit signs are possible, though.
"That's something we can do relatively quickly," he said.
He said flashing lights on the signs are not probable, because they require a light source and a guard rail, and a hanging yellow light would be ineffective.
"They're effective at first, but then they just become part of the landscape," Edgington said.
And Jersey walls are also not a good idea, he said, because too many of them become a hindrance to safety. "They're huge concrete objects in the roadway. They can become a huge hazard."
Edgington said improvements such as large rumble strips and brighter road lines will improve safety, and those will be in place within a month.
The group also wants NHP to strengthen its enforcement of the 50 mph speed limit.
"These troopers are the nuts and bolts of our situation," Jones said. "It's true that the only time people slow down is when they're around."
The Pleasant Valley area is normally patrolled by two to three officers per shift, said Nevada Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Chuck Allen.
"We only have so many troopers," Allen said, "and when you factor in vacation time, sick leave and comp time, sometimes we're down to minimum staffing levels."
Minimum staffing sometimes means there are only five officers to cover the northern division, which includes Reno, Sparks, Washoe Valley and Carson City, he said.
Lt. Tony Almarez, personnel director for the Nevada Highway Patrol, said the NHP asks the Legislature for more officer positions every year, and this year will be no exception.
Allen said drivers can do their part to slow down traffic speed by driving the speed limit in the slow lane.
Jones agrees. He says he drives 52 mph on Highway 395 and that slows the people behind him, but more safety precautions are needed.
What: First grass-roots traffic safety sign going up at 10 a.m. today
Where: Northwest corner of Highway 395 and Laramie Drive in Pleasant Valley, will be visible to southbound motorists
Who: The Highway 395 South Safety Movement: a grass-roots group of Washoe, Pleasant and Steamboat Valley residents and business owners are demanding higher safety standards and conditions from the Mount Rose Junction to College Parkway
Call: Hot line for the Highway 395 South Safety Movement, 849-8271
Contact Robyn Moormeister at email@example.com or 881-1215.