How to stop red-light runners in Las Vegas: Put ’em on TV

red-light runners in Las VegasHardly a day goes by in Las Vegas that I don’t see multiple flagrant red-light runners. One day last week, in the space of two hours, I saw three of them along a single major Las Vegas street. I stopped for the red light. The motorists in the next lane didn’t. With the light already red, each stepped on the gas and whooshed right past me into and then through the intersection. It’s really amazing no one got hit or killed. I should note this was on Good Friday.

Sadly, such violations seem to be rather common in Las Vegas. Before becoming New To Las Vegas eight years ago, I lived all around the country. Never have I seen the level of fast reckless driving elsewhere that I regularly see here. But the red light violations are particularly egregious. Traffic deaths are way up this year, and it is thought that red-light running is playing an important role.

Clark County Sheriff Kevin McMahill recently told KNPR’s “State of Nevada” public affairs show that despite unspecified stepped up enforcement actions, his Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department agency hasn’t been able to cut down on red light infractions. “We’re just frankly really tired of scraping people up off the streets,” he said.

McMahill has called for installation of traffic cameras that could issue red-light-violation tickets. This would require a change in state law. In a “What Happens Here, Stays Here” valley full of folks here for second chances or kicks, McMahill’s proposal seems to be about as popular as a ban on gambling or show girls.

I have another idea. Unleash the power of reality TV.

Las Vegas has a lot of television stations–too many, really–with an awful lot of air time to fill. The cops every day should invite a different station to send out a crew to a specific intersection for a couple hours where a police stake-out team will nail red-light runners. The news crews can record the light-running, followed by the stop and arrest of the perps.

Since this all would be happening in completely public places–major street intersections–there wouldn’t be a privacy issue, so I imagine the image of the perps legally could be shown. I would be fine with not naming them on the air. Their pictures would be shaming enough.

Stick to only the most obvious violations, where the perp is way before the intersection when the light turns red and then guns it to get in and get across. (Technically, it’s also a violation of state law if a motorist entering an intersection after the light turns yellow can’t get out before the red, but these red-light cases are not quite as dangerous, or sexy.) Get some of that TV sports tech out there and use superimposed lines, slow-mo and instant replay to fully analyze the action. Bring in drones for dramatic overhead shots. Employ some ominous music. Maybe sports broadcaster and Las Vegas resident Brent Musburger is available to call the action.

No change in the law is needed. Do this regularly at least for a couple of weeks. Once word gets out that a red-light runner’s mug could be on Candid Camera, I predict you’ll see a dramatic drop in the offense.

I even have a suggestion on where the first stake-outs can be set: on E. Flamingo Road at the intersection of either S. Pecos Rd. or S. Eastern Ave. At points as many as nine lanes wide, that 1.3-mile stretch of E. Flamingo Rd. in East Las Vegas is a major artery between the U.S. 93/U.S. 95/I-515 freeway and the Las Vegas Strip. The street eventually passes the hotel casino of the same name opened in 1947 by the infamous mobster Benjamin (Bugsy) Siegel. Completely repaved in recent years, E. Flamingo Rd. can look to a motorist eager for some quick gambling action and roaring off the freeway like the Bonneville Salt Flats. That may be why most of the red-light violations I see are westbound, toward the Strip.

The New To Las Vegas world headquarters happens to be near that area, which is why, with statistical extrapolation, I can speak with some authority about the frequency of red-light violations around me. There are scores every day and night.

Now besides ineffective policing, there is in my view a lot of blame to go around for the red-light problem, including poor traffic engineering and maybe (to be charitable) unfamiliar drivers. In a town whose economy is largely based on gambling, there is also a higher tolerance everywhere for risk, although red-light running seems to be of the Russian roulette variety.

But judging from claims made by the many Las Vegas lawyers advertising on the Internet a specialty in traffic ticket defense, it’s pretty easy to get courts to turn a red-light ticket into some lesser, non-moving violation offense. So I think prosecutors play play a role on this, too, as well as the historically inept Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.

Thus, I say make everything public for all to see. As long-time East Coast sportscaster Warner Wolf famously used to say, “Let’s go to the videotape.”

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How to stop red-light runners in Las Vegas: Put ’em on TV — 10 Comments

  1. Pingback: How to stop red-light runners in Las Vegas: Put 'em on TV - Brightgram

  2. I came from Oregon. They have had red light cameras for years. You run a red and you are mailed ticket!! A few $200 tickets and people learn. It helps the funding of the police department too, once the cameras are paid for and maintained!!

  3. M, it might. My reference in the post to “poor traffic engineering” certainly includes the possibility of flaws in timing and sequencing at intersections. I encounter a lot of traffic light timing problems at Las Vegas intersections–far more so than in other places I’ve lived. In many cases it’s entire cycles that strike me as too long. But having said that, I don’t know that the solution to red-light running is longer yellows. They generally don’t seem that short to me now. The problem I see is a certain number of folks perceiving a yellow light as a starter’s pistol, speeding up and entering the intersection before it turns red. While longer yellows might restrain the cross traffic, which would be good, in the long run I fear they might encourage even worse behavior on the part of the runners who might think they can take greater risks. And as we know, as its essence Las Vegas is a place with a great tolerance for risk.

  4. I wonder if it would be helpful to extend the timing on yellow lights for a few seconds?
    How many of these red light runners never learned the distance needed to fully stop?

  5. I move to Las Vegas a year ago and i have never seen as many cars running red lights as i do here in Las Vegas, Boulder Hwy is real bad for this kind of poor behavior. This problem needs to be fixed.

  6. In Collingswood, all you had to do was hop over the Rt. 130 Jersey barrier to get to Dunkin. Just ask Ernest.

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