Sheriff’s Message, Week of August 13th
Highway traffic safety in Lyon County is challenging. The Nevada Highway Patrol is the primary law enforcement agency on state highways for traffic enforcement while the LCSO assists when we can. Like us, NHP has limited resources. In reviewing this month’s Motor Vehicle Fatality Report, Lyon County continues with a 400-percent fatality increase from the previous year-to-date. Douglas and Churchill Counties have experienced similar fatality death increases with 500 and 200-percent increases, respectively.
The greatest risk for accidents and highway fatalities is impaired driving, which includes hands-on cell phone use, texting, alcohol or drug use, or even putting on makeup. Within two weeks, the USA Parkway is opening and expect to see traffic increases as commuters attempt to avoid the I-80 gridlock around the Tahoe Regional Industrial Center, and as truck traffic avoids Fernley and Fallon. If you have been driving impaired on Highways 50 and 95A in central and southern Lyon County, it is time to stop and begin driving defensively. Your safety and that of your family is important to us.
Prior to 2005, off highway vehicle (OHV) laws were very simple. Motorized vehicles greater than 50cc were not allowed on county or state maintained roads unless registered like a car. In 2005, the legislature created chapter 490 of the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS), which caused a lot of confusion for everyone including law enforcement. This chapter allowed OHVs on all dirt roads unless prohibited by county ordinance and allowed state and county paved road exceptions. In 2013, the legislature added more confusion by enabling certain OHVs the ability to register and drive on all paved roadways by giving them a sticker and not a rear license plate.
If you are confused by all this mess, try and look through our glasses. We get complaints of OHVs in the neighborhoods and by the time we get there, they are gone. We get complaints of noise, speeding and dust, but they take off into the hills. Deputies know there is no way they can catch them and they are not going to damage patrol vehicles by chasing an OHV into the hills.
NRS 490.090 specifically details where an OHV can ride and where it cannot. If an OHV driver operates their vehicle past a posted trail closure on BLM or US Forest lands, they may be in violation of this statute. As an example, there is a closed OHV area in Wilson Canyon. Our deputies may give misdemeanor citations for violating the law if caught. To my knowledge, there are no prohibitions on county maintained dirt road; therefore, OHVs may drive on them. However, they must follow the provisions contained in NRS 490.130, which states they must follow all traffic laws and wear a helmet. If we can catch OHV violating this law, they may receive a misdemeanor citation for speeding, not signaling for a turn, not wearing a helmet, or driving impaired.
And finally, this week I observed an OHV driving down a paved road. The driver failed to signal a turn, but there was no way I could safely catch up to him. As I turned off the highway, there it was again. Driver and passenger without a helmet. With nowhere to run in a strip mall parking lot, I decided to make a quick stop with the driver and explain the laws with a simple warning.
Little did I know he was going to the liquor store as he made an attempt to avoid the patrol car. He was arrested for operating a motor vehicle upon a public roadway while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, a simple misdemeanor arrest. Later, it was discovered he was previously convicted for a felony DUI. As the law states, once a felony DUI always a felony DUI. All because he wasn’t wearing a helmet. Reminds me of the old Johnny Cash song, Starkville City Jail. Oh wait, that was for “picking flowers.”
As always, keep the faith.