Driving 120 mph? Troopers crack down on speeding into Las Vegas

It might be called the Vegas Itch.

And for many drivers headed to Sin City from Southern California and the coast, the obvious scratch is to gun the engine down the long incline along Interstate 15  across the Nevada border and into Primm, with the lights of Las Vegas shimmering over the next ocher-colored mountain or two.

Along the 35 miles between Primm and the Strip, many vehicles are clocked at 100 mph or more. The average speed for vehicles pulled over is about 95 mph, 25 mph over the posted limit.

“Las Vegas is a 24-hour town, and many people just can’t wait to get there to start that nonstop vacation from life,” Nevada Highway Patrol spokesman and trooper Loy Hixson told the Los Angeles Times. “They’re chasing the overall rush. Once there, they don’t have to stop for anything.”

But Nevada troopers have a warning: If drivers break a speeding law, or even the slightest vehicle code, such as changing lanes without signaling, they will be stopped. And they will get a ticket.

It’s all part of the department’s Zero Tolerance program, which targets the stretch of I-15 from Primm to the Strip. Started in January, the aim of the crackdown was to change the way motorists drove the stretch.

And the tactic has been such a success, Hixson says, that troopers plan to continue it indefinitely.

The stretch from Barstow to Las Vegas has traditionally been a dangerous run, with multiple fatalities each year, because of high speeds and inattention. “On our side of the state line, we were up into the double-digits with fatalities every year,” Hixson told The Times. “We had to find a way to put a stop to that.”

And they have.

For the first six months of 2012, compared with the same period last year, injury accidents in the Nevada Zero Tolerance zone fell by more than half, Hixson said. Troopers gave out 8,000 citations for the period, compared with 6,000 in 2013.

So far this year, there has been just one fatal crash on the stretch, compared with four in 2012.

To blend in with traffic, troopers went to cars without light bars. On one shift, Hixson told The Times, he was in his car for three minutes before he saw someone fly past at more than 120 mph.

Hixson described the high-energy look of countless drivers who see a wide open road and a chance to speed: “You can almost see it in people’s eyes: There’s not a whole lot out there. 'I got four lanes, I can increase my speed; I’m almost there.' Now I think people are worrying that any car out there could be a trooper car.” 

He said a team of nine troopers works the stretch, as many as four at a time. Recently, they stopped one driver near Primm for speeding and the motorist got a second speed citation before reaching Vegas.

“We hope this is sinking in,” Hixson said. “But remember this: If there is a violation, you are going to get stopped.”


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