In March of 2015, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department announced it would stop responding to car accidents where neither party was injured. This was quite an interesting change since Metro had been reporting to all car accidents for nearly forty years. Budget and staffing concerns were cited as the reason for the cut back, and citizens were left puzzled. Many clients raised concerns to our office: What happens if I don't feel injured right away but later realize I am? What if the person deserves a ticket? What if someone who hits me denies s/he were at fault and my insurance will not cover me?
These are just a small sample of the dozens of concerns that were raised. Personally, the concern that stuck me the most was a question of safety. A female client expressed concern to me that if she got in an accident after dark, she would not feel comfortable exchanging insurance with a complete stranger, leaving her vulnerable on the side of the road. This resonated with me. Particularly of concern was when a person who causes an accident and might face someone with “road rage,” which is quite rampant in Nevada. All of these concerns appeared likely to cause other problems for the citizens that the police may not have anticipated.
I certainly can understand this non-response policy working well in smaller, slower paced cities but not in the Las Vegas Valley. Our city continually ranks high in the number of accidents, making a decreased police presence on the streets all the more concerning. If the thought of getting a ticket for causing a minor accident is not looming over people’s heads, drivers will probably take more risks and end up causing more accidents in the long run.
On the other hand, of course, we all want the police to be protecting the streets from murders, robbers, and kidnappers and not spending hours taking statements from victims of a paint-smudging minor collisions. I am sympathetic the the resource concerns of Metro.
Metro changes course with non-injury car accidents
As it turns out, public safety concerns outweighed this ill-fated policy. Starting January 2016, the policy will be officially reversed. Metro will again respond to any accident where they are called and prepare a report for the parties.
Clearly, there are other ways to save officers time in responding to accidents, specifically by reducing the number of accidents! It is clear that Las Vegas has too many, and the reasons are many and complicated. The roads need to be safer for our citizens, but getting there will not be easy. Perhaps if tickets were more expensive and more common, drivers would be more cautious and more motivated to be careful. There are many options for reducing the number of accidents on our roadways. Intersection cameras might be expensive at first, but are likely to pay off in the long run. Or perhaps, harsher penalties for those who drive under the influence. This, combined with the presence of ride shares like Uber and Lyft may help keep Las Vegas safer by making it easier for folks to get a ride home. Lowering speed limits, raising the age to start driving, adjusting the patterns at high-accident intersections, mandatory insurance increases with each accident, or even public ad campaigns reminding people how getting a little bit ahead on the roadway really does not save time in the long run.
These are just a few options for making our roads safer. However, all public safety measures come with a cost and it’s often hard to get the citizens on board for raising the funds needed, i.e. taxes…. But for now, it is a step in the right direction to put police back on the scene of even minor accidents, so these small inconveniences do not end up as big hassles later on.