A sentencing hearing is Oct. 27 for a truck driver facing a charge in connection with the death of Gardnerville resident Sean Leonard.
Leonard was making a turn into Bodie Flats from Highway 395 when he was struck from behind by the truck driven by Dzmitry Zantsevich on Feb 23, 2021.
Leonard was stopped waiting for the oncoming lane to clear before turning onto Courtland Avenue into the small community.
Like many residents of small Nevada communities along high-speed highways, he was forced to hope motorists coming up behind him saw that he was stopped to make a left turn.
It has been 16 years, since a very similar collision claimed the life of a Topaz Ranch Estates man who was stopped to turn onto Albite from Highway 208 while waiting for oncoming vehicles.
In that instance, an eastbound Ford-350 claimed the life of resident Darrell Daugherty on May 26, 2006. The driver of the pickup said she didn’t see that he was stopped.
At around 2 p.m. Aug. 14, another collision involving an unsafe passing resulted in a woman being helicoptered for major injuries.
Topaz Ranch General Improvement District Trustee Dave Akola said he believes a turn lane into his community of around 800 people in far southern Douglas County would help prevent collisions like the ones above.
However, no such work is planned for the highway in the State Transportation Improvement Plan.
According to the Nevada Department of Transportation an average of 3,800 vehicles a day use Highway 208 in the far southern portion of Douglas County.
“Official law enforcement crash and citation records show one impairment-related fatality, seven property-damage-only crashes and three injury crashes between January 2018 and January 2021 on State Route 208 from Highway 395 to American Way, near Topaz Ranch Estates,” Nevada Department of Transportation Spokeswoman Meg Ragonese said. “This property damage and injury crash rate is below the statewide average for similar roadways. While this property damage and injury crash rate is below the statewide average, NDOT remains dedicated to the safety and mobility of all roadways in Nevada.”
Ragonese said that the state will evaluate whether signs or changing the road striping will help visibility, though there aren’t any major transportation projects set for the highway that is the only paved direct link between Douglas and Lyon counties.
“With more than $167 million in transportation improvements and programs planned in Douglas County over the coming four years, NDOT will continue to prioritize the most critical future Nevada highway priorities to enhance traffic safety and mobility across Douglas County and the state,” she said. “Given constrained transportation funding, NDOT prioritizes transportation projects in collaboration with public input and local and regional governments to maximize the benefits of transportation investments.”
Ragonese said the fatality involved alcohol, which is also suspected in the Aug. 14 collision, according to Nevada Highway Patrol spokeswoman Trooper Amanda Powell.
“Statewide, drunk and drugged driving has been a leading cause of traffic fatalities over recent years,” Ragonese said. “In fact, impairment was a contributing factor in roughly 55 percent of all fatal traffic crashes across Nevada since 2016. In 2020, there were 333 fatalities involving impaired drivers in the state, and, in 2021, there 384, an increase in one year of just over 19 percent.”
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