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Motor vehicle deaths are way, way up.
Nationwide, the National Safety Council estimates motor vehicle deaths were up 8 percent last year – the largest spike in generations.
And in Nevada?
The picture's a lot worse.
Motor vehicle deaths here were up 14 percent in 2015 compared to the year prior, and up 25 percent from 2013.
Deborah Hersman probably frets more about those numbers than almost anyone in the country.
She's the president of the National Safety Council. She said there is no single theory that accounts for the spike, but the improving economy does play a role.
"We know when the economy improves -- when we’re coming out of a recession -- that motor vehicle fatalities go up," Hersman said.
She said when fewer people are working, fewer people are on the road getting to work.
Besides that, the causes of most motor vehicle deaths -- any crash or accident involving any type of motor vehicle in anyway resulting in a fatality -- have stayed the same for several years, according to Hersman.
The biggest causes of fatal crashes include alcohol, speeding and distraction, she said.
Hersman said Nevada might have higher motor vehicle fatalities because of the easy and 24-hour availability of alcohol.
In addition, warmer weather usually means more people ride motorcycles, which are far riskier than cars.
When then taking the number of rural roads in Nevada, which often don't have the same safety features as interstates or urban streets, into consideration, the numbers increase further.
Hersman said there are design features that can prevent some of these fatalities, like barriers between bike lanes and car lanes, or more pedestrian overpasses like those on the Las Vegas Strip.
"One of the most important things you can do is a design intervention," she said.
She said some older cities might have more difficulty making design improvements because it is harder to change something that is already in place, compared to a newer city like Las Vegas.
However, Hersman had a much simpler suggestion for bringing down the number of motor vehicle fatalities: buckle your seat belt. She said 50 percent of people killed in motor vehicle crashes aren't buckled up, and that make eye contact with drivers while crossing the street can make a difference too.
"Smile when you’re out there for a walk," Hersman said.
Deborah Hersman, president, National Safety Council
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