Locals have long been attracted to the casinos on Boulder Highway from Henderson to downtown Las Vegas, but over the last decade pedestrians have been gambling with their lives on the thoroughfare as well.
Since 2006, there have been 486 auto-pedestrian deaths on Nevada roads, according to data from the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Of those deaths, 44, or 9 percent, occurred on Boulder Highway.
Of the pedestrian deaths on Boulder Highway, 35 occurred from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m., according to DPS data.
In most cases the pedestrians were found to be at fault: 23 were attributed to pedestrian error, four were the fault of the driver, one to both driver and pedestrian error and one unknown. There were 15 fatal incidents without detailed information available because they were either too old (from 2006 to 2010), too recent (2016-2017) or it wasn’t available.
The No. 1 cause of an auto-ped fatal was jaywalking, with 18 incidents caused by pedestrians not using crosswalks, three related to pedestrians disobeying traffic signals and one of the deaths caused by standing in the roadway.
Despite the prevalence of casinos and bars on the highway, about 80 percent of the drivers involved in the fatal auto-pedestrian incidents were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The data revealed 45 percent of pedestrians were under the influence of drugs or alcohol; 42 percent of pedestrians weren’t impaired.
The average age of a pedestrian killed in an auto-pedestrian accident was 49 years old, with the average age of the driver 43 years old.
Tim Thyhartzell, a resident who walks up and down Boulder Highway daily, said he sees pedestrians breaking laws several times a day.
“I see jaywalking all the time,” Thyhartzell said. “About every 100 feet, I see that happening.”
Thyhartzell said he hasn’t seen a fatal incident, but he sees the reports on TV, which makes him take extra precautions while traveling the route.
“I just make sure I stay in my direction and always look both ways," he said. "I never jaywalk, and I pay attention to the signs.”
With the area being one of the most dangerous stretches of roads for pedestrians, Julie Gallagher, fatality analyst with the DPS Office of Traffic Safety, said the agency created a group aimed at addressing some of the issues.
“We formed a Boulder Highway Coalition about a year ago to help with some of the problems,” Gallagher said. “There are so many areas that are dark with little to no light. In addition, there is a lot of foot traffic to the casinos where pedestrians do not walk up to the crosswalk but cut through the large medians and the motor vehicles do not see them until it’s too late.”
A Metro representative said concentrated enforcement is carried out on Boulder Highway, but no data on the number of citations were available from such events.
“We do conduct regular enforcement in the area and are aware of the increased danger for pedestrian-automobile accidents,” Metro spokesman Michael Rodriguez said.
Despite Metro citing drivers and pedestrians, Rodriguez said there is confusion about which agency recommends safety improvements to an area like Boulder Highway.
NDOT is conducting a study with stakeholders, including Clark County, the city of Henderson and the city of Las Vegas to develop a full makeover of the 16.7-mile Boulder Highway.
The study is expected to take a year to complete, but in the meantime eight locations are up for immediate improvement projects.
Almost $3 million worth of projects include midblock crossings in the following areas:
• Between College Avenue and Horizon Drive
• Hamilton Avenue
• Boulder Palms Senior Apartments, 4350 Boulder Highway
• Whitney Avenue
Improvements are also planned for:
• Foster Avenue
• Corn Street and Lorey Street
• Oakey Boulevard
• Whitney Avenue
The upgrades consist of pedestrian improvements, including improved lighting, crosswalks, sidewalks and median enhancements. Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin in the fall.
NDOT is hosting a public information meeting about the scheduled enhancements from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, March 9. Project representatives will be on hand at William E. Ferron Elementary School, 4200 Mountain Vista St., to discuss the proposed improvements and answer questions.
Some of the planned ideas for the long-term corridor makeover include adapting vehicle travel lanes into dedicated bus and bicycle lanes, with the possibility of creating a public park in the median.
Additionally NDOT began $2.4 million in pedestrian and motorist safety upgrades that include installing an overhead rapid flashing beacon and Danish-offset median island at Boulder Highway and Sun Valley Drive near the Eastside Cannery. Closing of the left-hand vehicle turn lanes is also planned, eliminating pedestrian conflicts. Construction is expected to finish by late summer.
The speed limit was recently reduced from 55 mph to 45 mph on Boulder Highway on a 2-mile stretch north of Stephanie Street. The 55 mph speed limit remains on the southern stretches of the highway.
Boulder Highway was built in 1931 as part of the construction of the Hoover Dam.
When constructed it was the area’s only freeway, initially carrying State Route 5 and later serving U.S. Routes 93, 95, and 466 from near Boulder City through Henderson and into downtown Las Vegas. Interstate 15 and the 215 Beltway were later constructed, effectively taking its place and changing its use.
Additional residential and commercial development, including schools and casinos, began popping up along Boulder Highway, adding to the pedestrian traffic.The development changed the area’s demographics’s use and needs, transforming the highway into a community route with more bicyclists and pedestrian traffic, increasing the danger.
NDOT gives these tips for drivers and pedestrians to ensure safe travel for both.
• When you’re crossing a street, make eye contact with drivers. Make sure they know you’re there.
• Pay attention to where you’re going — distracted walking can be just as dangerous as distracted driving.
• Look left, right and left again when crossing. Keep looking as you cross.
• Obey signs and signals.
• Be noticed. Wear bright clothing or reflective materials at night.
• Never allow children under age 10 to cross streets alone.
• Look for pedestrians, expect to see them at corners and marked mid-block crossings and stop for them when they cross the street.
• Slow down. Stop on red, and look right before turning on green.
• Don’t pass a car stopped for pedestrians — it’s against the law.
• Be alert and make eye contact with pedestrians.
For more on pedestrian and driver safety, go to NDOT’s Pedestrian Smart website.