RENO, Nev. (AP) — Traffic deaths rose slightly in Nevada last year, but serious-injury accidents dropped dramatically and the number of fatalities still remain nearly half as low as they were just six years ago, thanks in part to motorists buckling up.
The Nevada Department of Public Safety and Transportation reported 258 fatalities on Nevada roadways last year. That's 12 more than the year before, but still 40 percent lower than the 432 deaths in 2006.
Serious traffic injuries dropped from 1,222 in 2011 to only 725 last year. That's also a 40 percent decline.
Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Jeremie Elliot said a lot of the credit goes to seat belts.
"Wearing a seat belt is still statistically one of the most important things you can do to help save your life and reduce injuries in a crash. It truly comes down to always focusing on the road and being safe while driving, walking or riding," he said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported seat belt use in Nevada climbed from 91 percent in 2006 to 94 percent in 2011.
A more recent study by University of Nevada, Las Vegas researchers estimated usage in 2012 closer to 90 percent. But safety officers said that's still significantly better than a decade ago when it dropped as low as 75 percent in 2002.
The latest state report on fatalities said there were 58 pedestrian deaths on Nevada roads in 2012, compared to 46 pedestrian deaths in 2011. In Clark County, pedestrian deaths rose from 30 in 2011 to 42 in 2012.
Rudy Malfabon, director of the Nevada Department of Transportation, said officials statewide are developing strategies aimed at cutting all annual fatalities in half by 2030. Meanwhile, he's pushing the campaign.
"Ultimately, reaching zero fatalities relies on each and every person," he said. "When we think of ourselves, our friends and our family, one traffic death is too many. That's why it is so important that we each be safe every time we're on the road."