Slow down or else |

Slow down or else

Maggie O'Neill
Cathleen Allison/Tribune News Service/ New signs have appeared in Pleasant Valley as residents continue to plead with drivers to slow down.

The new signs in Pleasant Valley threatening a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail for speeders are not only eye-catching: They’re true.

A judge can set those penalties for any misdemeanor crime, including speeding.

“On several occasions I’ve doubled the fines I would normally impose for speeders in that area because people have put so many signs on the road advising how dangerous it is there,” said Reno Justice Court Judge Ed Dannan. “There is no excuse for the way people are driving out there.”

Not long ago, Dannan fined a man the maximum penalty of $1,000 for excessive speeding, leading to a high-speed chase. He fined someone else $500 for impeding traffic and causing road rage.

The new speeding signs are visible to both northbound and southbound travelers entering the valley. A third sign, northbound, says “Slow Down, We Live Here,” and shows the outline of a family.

“These signs and other signs will continue to go up,” said David Jones, who spear-headed the grassroots project and lives on Andrew Lane. “This effort is by no means over. We will continue to put signs up to continue to get these results. We want to make this into a new thing where people notice when we put up a sign.”

Jones and the other members of the Highway 395 South Safety Committee have placed 27 signs since last August when two accidents within a week killed three people.

Both accidents involved methamphetamine use, according to Nevada Department of Transportation and Nevada Highway Patrol officials.

“I’ve seen some horrific accidents here,” said Jones, who has lived in the area for 34 years. “I’ve seen accidents that’d give you nightmares. I’ve experienced some near misses myself.”

He is also lobbying the Nevada Legislature to support AB11, which would allow photos of speeders’ license plates to be taken and resulting citations and tickets sent to their home.

“The reason I started this was simply to save lives,” Jones said. “Like I’ve always said: ‘If you had a relative or spouse who was killed on the highway, wouldn’t you like to have somebody doing something about it?'”

The effectiveness of the signs has not gone unnoticed. Trooper Chuck Allen of the Nevada Highway Patrol estimates the average speed through the area dropped from 64 mph to about 57 mph since the signs were erected.

“People sure do travel faster than that, but I think the signs that the community has put out have alerted drivers and made them more aware,” he said.

NHP and the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office have helped with speed reduction, sending out extra patrol officers when they are available, something that Myrtle McDowell, president of the Pleasant/Steamboat Valleys Landowners Association Inc., appreciates.

“I think that probably the speed has decreased 10 mph out there,” she said. “They’re still driving at 60 and 65 mph, but many days when we see the NHP or a sheriff out there, they mind their P’s and Q’s and drive 55 or 57 mph, which is what we want people to do.”

Stephanie Couch, manager of the Nevada Lynn Emporium, where a new sign was placed, hears a lot from customers about traffic and from out-of-towners about the handmade signs.

“The signs have made a little difference,” she said. “We can see the traffic is a little slower.

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