Traffic death toll could bring action | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Traffic death toll could bring action

Susie Vasquez

Seven people have died in traffic accidents on Douglas County highways in the past month. In an effort to address the problem, commissioners could approve the addition of two deputies and equipment to supplement enforcement at today’s county commissioners’ meeting.

“The increase in collisions over the past month makes this one of the issues we have to address,” said Sheriff Ron Pierini. “Traffic is the No. 1 concern and source of aggravation for Douglas County residents, but we can’t increase our staff without the commission’s blessing.”

Pierini’s staff has been working to provide the necessary data to support this move and he’s optimistic about Thursday’s outcome, but efforts are ongoing to slow traffic irrespective of the commissioners’ decision.

Deputies are concentrating their efforts along the most susceptible corridor, Highway 395 between Airport Road and the Carson City/Douglas County line.

“We need to address this problem more aggressively, even if it means overtime right now,” Pierini said. “With all of these collisions and crashes, we’ve got to slow this traffic down.”

An agreement between the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the Nevada Highway Patrol has been reinstituted to concentrate on high-accident areas and there will be little or no tolerance for violators, Pierini said.

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“Officers will be highly visible and there will be little or no discretion when the law is violated,” he said. “That’s my agenda.”

He said enforcement is an educational tool, but it isn’t the silver bullet.

“We need compliance from the people,” he said.

Pierini said two new officers will cost about $160,000 a year including benefits, but that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to addressing the problems in Douglas County.

If growth rates continue, Douglas County’s police force will need 45 new people by 2010, for everything from traffic issues to drug problems.

The number of people held in Douglas County’s jail has increased in recent years, from about 60 to 115, Pierini said.

“Commissioners are concerned about the growth in people, traffic and crime and how deal with these issues,” Pierini said. “We must keep up with the issues or we’re going to have a real problem.”

In other business:

— Commissioners could approve an application to the Nevada Division of State lands to purchase 725 acres of wildlife habitat northeast of Genoa, along the eastern slope of the Sierra.

Trails connect to Forest Service property and a short trail extension is planned, to connect the property with the Tahoe Rim Trail.

Under this proposal, Question One funds would provide 75 percent of the acquisition and Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act would be used for the required 25 percent match.

Currently on the market, the Adams Canyon property has been nominated under the Southern Nevada Public Lands Act for potential purchase, with an estimated value of $4.04 million.

What: Douglas County Commissioners meeting

When: 1:30 p.m. today

Where: Administration Building, 175 Highway 50, Stateline

The following accidents have occurred since July 15 in Douglas County.

— Norman Sharkey Jr., 36, of Gardnerville, Gabriel Ortega, 27, and his father, Eugene Leroy Sandoval, 59, were killed when Sharkey’s truck crossed the center line on Highway 395 in the Bodie Flats area south of China Spring. The truck hit a Swift tractor-trailer carrying Ortega and Sandoval at about 5:49 p.m. Aug. 7.

— Bridget Noel Chambers, 17, was killed in a collision at Highway 395 and Stephanie Way July 15. Forrest Ladd, a 79-year-old Minden resident, was southbound in his GMC utility vehicle, attempting to make a left-hand turn onto Stephanie Way when he struck Chambers’ car.

— Cory Jackson, a 16-year-old Douglas High School swimmer, wrestler and junior varsity football player, died from injuries received when the car he was driving southbound in Kingsbury Grade left the road, at about 9:35 p.m. July 21.

— Kenneth Paul Abler Jr., 40, of Placerville, was killed after his motorcycle collided with a van at Lake Tahoe on Highway 50. Abler drifted across the double-yellow center line at about 6:20 p.m. July 29.

— Indian Hills resident James Baer, 33, was killed after being thrown from his vehicle at about 10 p.m. Friday. The single-vehicle rollover accident occurred on Highway 395 near Topsy Lane. One passenger was hospitalized and another incurred minor injuries.

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