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Spike in fatal crashes prompts crackdown on distracted driving

Law enforcement agencies across Nevada are launching an enhanced effort to combat distracted driving Monday given a spike in fatal crashes in 2021.

There have been 180 traffic fatalities in the state so far this year, up from 136 during the same time frame last year, said Andrew Bennett, spokesman for the Nevada Department of Public Safety’s office of traffic safety. Traffic fatalities have risen at a comparable rate in Southern Nevada.

Even when factoring in the increased traffic given the rollback of pandemic restrictions, Bennett said, fatalities on Nevada roads are on a steady, upward trend over the past five years due in large part to distracted driving, speeding and driving under the influence.

“There is just constant recklessness,” Bennett said.

Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Travis Smaka agreed.

“All of law enforcement is going to be working together on this to address the increase in dangerous driving behavior, focusing on speed, impairment, seat belts and distracted driving with a focus on people driving while on their cellphones,” Smaka said in a phone interview.

Nevada law prohibits drivers from using cellphones or other electronic devices without Bluetooth or hands-free headsets.

The coalition of law enforcement includes the NHP and Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson police.

Contact Glenn Puit by email at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.