NHP cracks down on Douglas County traffic violators
If you have been pulled over by highway patrol officers in Douglas County, you are not alone.
Ever since the Nevada Highway Patrol opened its Minden substation last October, the number of traffic tickets issued in portions of Douglas County at Lake Tahoe has nearly doubled.
Prior to the station opening, troopers stationed in Carson City patrolled an area that, besides Douglas County, included Incline Village and stretched all the way out to Yerington.
Now officers stationed in Minden, with some exceptions, patrol exclusively in Douglas County – both at Lake Tahoe and the Carson Valley.
The number of citations logged at the Tahoe Justice Court between October 1996 and March 1997 is listed at 1,636. The number issued during that same period the previous year was 921.
The most immediate impact of increased patrol at Lake Tahoe has been about $60,000 in additional revenues to the county from fines collected by the court.
Officials contend that beefed-up patrols will also reduce accidents and save lives.
“Our goal is to get speeds down,” said NHP Sgt. Mike Simon, who supervises the Minden substation. “If we have traffic flow traveling at the speed limit, we’re going to reduce the number of accidents and the severity of accidents.”
The Nevada Department of Transportation reported 12 accidents occurred on the 14.5-mile stretch of Highway 50 in Douglas County between September and December of 1995. During that same period in 1996, the number was listed at 10.
Simon believes it is too early to gauge the impact of increased patrol on the accident rate. However, he has noticed a decrease in the severity of accidents that have occurred since last fall.
The increase in citations has also increased traffic at the Tahoe Justice Court, where drivers cited in the Tahoe Basin are ordered to appear.
“Most people pay their citations, realizing they were doing what they were cited for,” said Court Clerk Willene Harrington.
Most are not happy about it.
“I’d never had a ticket,” said Skye Zink, a Reno woman who used to live at Lake Tahoe. “I think it stinks.”
Zink was cited for driving without a front license plate and for going 63 mph in a 45 mph zone on Highway 50. Ultimately, traffic court officials reduced the violation to a one-point infraction and a $30 fine, even though she could have been fined up to $94.
“It’s only one point, so I just paid it,” Zink said prior to leaving the court. “I didn’t want the hassle.”
Nevada drivers who get more than eight points on their driving record during a one-year period can have their license suspended.
Chris Lobosco, cited for no proof of insurance while driving down Kingsbury Grade, does not want the hassle either. However, the Stateline man will challenge his ticket in court because he cannot afford the $700 fine for uninsured drivers.
Lobosco, a ski instructor who has spent the past three winters at Lake Tahoe, said he had never been pulled over prior to three weeks ago.
He said he was only trying to fasten his seat belt when an officer pulled him over for swerving. He is due back in court this week for a hearing.
“I like having officers out there, but I don’t consider myself a criminal,” Lobosco said.
Those cited have included locals and tourists alike.
One visitor from England reportedly mailed in his check for a traffic citation after he was sent a reminder from the court. Court officials said it is unlikely that an arrest warrant would be served in England for a traffic violation. However, the traffic violator told them that he intended to visit Lake Tahoe again in the future and does not want to get arrested when he returns.
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