After a fatal Nevada crash, federal investigators want cars to warn drivers if they are speeding

After a fatal Nevada crash, federal investigators want cars to warn drivers if they are speeding

DETROIT (AP) — Federal accident investigators want automakers to install systems on all new vehicles that warn drivers when they exceed the speed limit, and are asking regulators to figure out how states could electronically limit the speeds of vehicles driven by repeat traffic offenders.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendations to combat excessive speeding came after a hearing Tuesday into a January 2022 crash in North Las Vegas, Nevada. In that accident, the driver of a Dodge Challenger with a long speed record ran a red light at 103 mph (166 km/h) and collided with a pickup truck, killing himself and eight others.

The board, which can only make recommendations and has no regulatory authority, determined that the Challenger driver’s excessive speed and failure to obey a stop sign and red light caused the accident. His disability was contributed by cocaine and PCP. But it also found that Nevada failed to seriously punish the driver after he was charged with five speeding violations in the 17 months before the accident.

Some violations were reduced to parking tickets in plea deals, and neighboring courts were unaware of the rash of driving problems at other courts, the board said.

From 1992 to 2017, the driver was convicted of 11 traffic violations, including three speeding violations. However, at the time of the accident, his official state driving record included only one violation, speeding in 2017, the NTSB said.

“Nevada must do better about eliminating silos of neighborhood courts and sharing information,” said Board Member Michael Graham. “The State of Nevada failed to hold the driver accountable.”

The problem of one court not knowing what another court did with a repeat traffic offender occurs in other states as well, NTSB staff said. They said that unless the court’s statements were widely distributed, it would be difficult to impose punishment.

Also, the Nevada state legislature in 2021 decriminalized traffic violations including speeding less than 30 mph (48 km/h) over the limit, making the violations a civil offense and raising the possibility of imprisonment for unpaid fines. Serious offenses including going 30mph over the limit and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol remain criminal offences.

Clark County Prosecutor Steve Wolfson in Las Vegas and Assistant Nevada State Attorney Aaron Ford did not immediately respond to messages regarding the NTSB’s findings.

The NTSB also recommended that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration develop measures to reduce the number of repeat offenders and establish guidelines to help states test speed limit devices on vehicles owned by repeat offenders.

NHTSA would be required to require, as standard equipment on all new vehicles, “intelligent speed assistance systems” that use cameras and mapping to determine the speed limit and, at a minimum, warn drivers when it is exceeded. The council also discussed pushing states to install active systems that make it harder for a repeat offender to speed, or limit speeding altogether.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade group representing automakers, said technology can play a role in reducing speed-related crashes, but the group has long supported policies that focus on education, enforcement and investment in infrastructure.

NTSB Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy expressed frustration that previous recommendations that NHTSA include warnings about speed limits in the classifications of its new vehicles have gone unheeded. Adding warnings to features described in NHTSA’s New Vehicle Evaluation Program would prompt automakers to install features to compete on safety, Homendy said.

“We are tired of not seeing any action from NHTSA,” she said in an interview.

She said that speed represents a third of the 43,000 traffic deaths in the United States every year. As of last week, speed was a factor in a Texas crash that killed eight people, Homendy said.

An NHTSA spokeswoman said in a statement that the safety agency welcomes the NTSB’s input and is carefully reviewing it. In March of last year, the agency requested public comment on updates to new vehicle classifications, including whether speed limiters or warnings should be added. She said the agency is reviewing the comments and developing a regulation.

The NTSB also asked the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to study the impact of automobile marketing ads that the board said encourage speeding. Homendy cited a Dodge muscle car ad that she said emphasized speed and “encourages drivers to never take their foot off the accelerator.”

The crash in North Las Vegas on the weekend evening killed the 59-year-old driver with a history of traffic and criminal offenses and his 46-year-old passenger in a Challenger that investigators found was speeding before running a red light and crashing. Minivan.

Three other vehicles were damaged in a serial collision at a busy, multi-lane intersection. In total, 15 people participated.

The seven deceased family members range in age from 5 to 35 and lived in North Las Vegas.

An autopsy showed that the driver who caused the crash, Gary Dean Robinson of North Las Vegas, had levels of cocaine and PCP in his system higher than the levels Nevada state law requires a driver to be intoxicated. He had a long history of traffic and criminal offenses, including speeding, and served time in state prison after pleading guilty in 2004 to felony cocaine possession and a probation violation, records showed.

A few days before the accident, Robinson pleaded guilty in Las Vegas to a speeding charge, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. He was fined $150.

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Associated Press writer Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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