LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) – A traffic safety advocate calls for Las Vegas Metropolitan Police to crack down on illegal crossings and “jaywalking” as pedestrian deaths continue to rise, while the Sheriff argues jaywalking citations are ineffective and enforcement is problematic.

“2023 was the worst year we’ve ever had for pedestrian fatalities and this month (January) is the worst we’d ever had,” said Erin Breen, who tracks the deadly trends for the UNLV Transportation Research Center as the director of the Road Equity Alliance Project. “[Pedestrians] feel like they can cross wherever they want. and when they do, they’re losing their lives as a result,” Breen said.

FOX5 obtained an order for LVMPD officers to stop issuing jaywalking citations as of April 2023. Breen said most jurisdictions across the Valley still issue citations.

“A citation is still a deterrent. The idea that in our major jurisdiction, that we no longer write pedestrian tickets for crossing the street unsafely and illegally, we’re doing that person a grave disservice,” Breen said.

“It didn’t matter year over year how many traffic citations that we issued for jaywalking, it had no impact on the number of fatalities. Zero,” said Sheriff Kevin McMahill.

“What we were finding was that when our officers went to stop somebody for jaywalking, and somebody decided to run… you’re chasing them for a civil infraction. We shouldn’t be having force used on civil infractions,” McMahill said, noting that confrontations sometimes lead to less community trust.

In 2021, the Legislature changed the penalty for jaywalking from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction with a $100 fine.

Civil rights advocates argue the majority of people who get penalized for jaywalking often live in poor communities, do not have cars or are homeless.

“Someone with limited financial means, that can be a very large punishment. If they don’t go to court, the judgment may be entered in their absence. If they do at some point get a job. their wages may be garnished because of that old $100 fine, more fees might be added to it,” said Professor Eve Hanan, director of the Misdemeanor Clinic for the UNLV Boyd School of Law.

“So often, the burden falls on law enforcement, when in reality, this may be more of an urban planning issue. We may need more crosswalks, safe crosswalks,” Hanan said.

Hanan advocated for a bill in the Legislature to stagger fine amounts by income or ability to pay.

Breen said from 2017 to 2021, justice court allowed a class for people with jaywalking citations to take a three-hour class, and get their fines dismissed. The classes were available via Zoom during the pandemic.

“The pedestrian who got a ticket, didn’t have to pay the ticket, and then the court dismissed the ticket. That to me is the solution,” Breen said, hoping the debate can bring together law enforcement to discuss solutions.

Below is the data from the Clark County Office of Traffic Safety, showing a trend towards a rise in deadly crashes and pedestrian fatalities:

Clark County Fatalities (including cities)

2019: 186

2020: 195

2021: 236

2022: 235

2023: 238

Clark County Pedestrian Fatalities

2019: 43

2020: 62

2021: 62

2022: 71

2023: 82


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